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NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
AND OTHER STORIES
BY BERTRAND RUSSELL
The Impact of Science on Society
New Hopes for a Changing World
Authority and the Individual
Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits
History of Western Philosophy
The Principles of Mathematics
Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy
The Analysis of Mind
Our Knowledge of the External World
An Outline of Philosophy
The Philosophy of Leibniz
An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth
In Praise of Idleness
The Conquest of Happiness
Mysticism and Logic
The Scientific Outlook
Marriage and Morals
Education and the Social Order
Freedom and Organization, 1814-1914
Principles of Social Reconstruction
Roads to Freedom
Practice and Theory of Bolshevism
Satan in the Suburbs
OF EMINENT PERSONS
AND OTHER STORIES
CHARLES W. STEWART
THE BODLEY HEAD
First published 1954
by arrangement with the author's regular publishers
GEORGE ALLEN AND UNWIN LTD
This look is copyright under the Berne Convention. Apart
from any fair dealing for the purposes of private study y
research^ criticism or review^ as permitted under the Copyright
Act 1911, no portion may be reproduced by any process without
n. Inquiry should be made to the publisher.
Printed in Great Britain by
UNWIN BROTHERS LIMITED, WOKING AND LONDON
for JOHN LANE THE BODLEY HEAD LTD
28 Little Russell Street London WCi
It is only fair to warn the reader that not all the stories in
this volume are intended to cause amusement. Of the "Night-
mares," some are purely fantastic, while others represent
possible, though not probable, horrors. "Zahatopolk" is
designed to be completely serious. The last story, "Faith
and Mountains," may strike some readers as fantastic, but, if
so, they must have led sheltered lives, as appears from the
"Taking its cue from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
of England this year, the National Pickle Association
started a search for an American girl with the name of
Elizabeth Pickle to be the ruler of Pickledom during 1953.
The Peanut Journal and Nut World." (Quoted from the
Observer, June 28, 1953.)
I wish Elizabeth Pickle all success !
Preface page 5
Nightmares of Eminent Persons
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA*S NIGHTMARE:
Put Not Thy Trust in Princes 9
MR. BOWDLER'S NIGHTMARE: Family Bliss 16
THE PSYCHOANALYST'S NIGHTMARE: Adjustment a Fugue 21
THE METAPHYSICIAN'S NIGHTMARE : Retro Me Satanas 31
THE EXISTENTIALIST'S NIGHTMARE:
The Achievement of Existence 36
THE MATHEMATICIAN'S NIGHTMARE:
The Vision of Professor Squarepunt 40
STALIN'S NIGHTMARE: Amor Vinch Omnia 45
EISENHOWER'S NIGHTMARE: The McCarthy-Malenkov Pact 49
DEAN ACHESON'S NIGHTMARE:
The Swan-Song of Menelaus S. Bloggs 56
DR. SOUTHPORT VULPES'S NIGHTMARE:
The Victory of Mind Over Matter 60
Zahatopolk page 69
Faith and Mountains page 113
Nightmares of Eminent Persons
The following "Nightmares" might be called "Signposts to
Sanity." Every isolated passion is, in isolation, insane;
sanity may be defined as a synthesis of insanities. Every
dominant passion generates a dominant fear, the fear of its
non-fulfilment. Every dominant fear generates a nightmare,
sometimes in the form of an explicit and conscious fanaticism,
sometimes in a paralysing timidity, sometimes in an un-
conscious or subconscious terror which finds expression
only in dreams. The man who wishes to preserve sanity in
a dangerous world should summon in his own mind a
Parliament of fears, in which each in turn is voted absurd by
all the others. The dreamers of the following nightmares did
not adopt this technique; it is hoped that the reader will
have more wisdom.
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA'S NIGHTMARE
Put Not Thy Trust in Princes
The Queen of Sheba, returning from her visit to King Solomon,
was riding through the desert on a white ass with her Grand Vizier
beside her on an ass of more ordinary colour. As they rode, she
discoursed reminiscently about the wealth and wisdom of Solomon.
"I had always thought," she said, "that I do pretty well in the
way of royal splendour, and I had hoped beforehand that I should
be able to hold my own, but when I had seen his possessions I had
no spirit left in me. But the treasures of his palace are as nothing
to the treasures of his mind. Ah, my dear Vizier, what wisdom,
what knowledge of life, what sagacity his conversation displays !
If you had as much political sagacity in your whole body as that
King has in his little finger, we should have none of these troubles
in my kingdom. But it is not only in wealth and wisdom that he
is matchless. He is also (though perhaps I am the only one privileged
to know this) a supreme poet. He gave me as we parted a jewelled
10 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
volume in his own inimitable handwriting, telling in language of
exquisite beauty the joy that he had experienced in my company.
There are passages celebrating some of my more intimate charms
which I should blush to show you; but there are portions of this
book which I may perhaps read to you to beguile the evenings of
our journey through the desert. In this exquisite volume not only
are his own words such as any lady would love to hear from
amorous lips, but by a quintessence of imaginative sympathy he has
attributed to me poetic words which I should be glad to have
uttered. Never again, I am convinced, shall I find such perfect union,
such entire harmony, and such penetration into the recesses of the
soul. My public duties, alas, compel me to return to my kingdom,
but I shall carry with me to my dying day the knowledge that there
is on earth one man worthy of my love."
"Your Majesty," replied the Vizier, "it is not for me to instil
doubts into the royal breast, but to all those who serve you, it is
incredible that among men your equal should exist."
At this moment, emerging out of the sunset, a weary figure
appeared on foot.
"Who may this be?" said the Queen.
"Some beggar, your Majesty," said the Grand Vizier. "I strongly
advise you to steer clear of him."
But a certain dignity in the aspect of the approaching stranger
seemed to her indicative of something more than a beggar. And in
spite of the Grand Vizier's protests she turned her ass towards him.
"And who may you be?" she said.
His answer dispelled at once the Grand Vizier's suspicions, for
he spoke in the most polished idiom of the court of Sheba: "Your
Majesty," he said, "my name is Beelzebub, but it is probably un-
known to you, as I seldom travel far from the land of Canaan. Who
you are, I know. And not only who you are, but whence you come,
and what fancies inspire your sunset meditations. You have come,
I know, from visiting that wise king who, though my humble guise
might seem to belie my words, has been for many years my firm
friend. I am convinced that he has told you concerning himself all
that he wishes you to know. But if though the hypothesis seems
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA S NIGHTMARE //
rash there is anything that you wish to know concerning him
beyond what he has seen fit to tell, you have but to ask me, for he
has* no secrets from me."
"You surprise me/' said the Queen, "but I see that our con-
versation will be too long to be conducted conveniently while you
walk and I ride. My Grand Vizier shall dismount and give his ass
With an ill grace the Grand Vizier complied.
"I suppose," the Queen said, "that your conversations with
Solomon were mainly concerned with statecraft and matters of deep
wisdom. I, as a Queen not unrenowned for wisdom, also conversed
with him on these topics; but some of our conversation so at least
I flatter myself revealed a side of him less intimately known, I
should imagine, to you than to me. And some of the best of this
he put into a book which he gave to me as we parted. This book
contains many beauties, for example, a lovely description of the
"Ah," said Beelzebub, "and does he in this description speak of
the voice of the turtle?"
"Why, yes," said the Queen. "But how did you guess?"
"Oh, well," Beelzebub replied, "he was proud of having noticed
the turtle talking in the spring and liked to bring it in when he
"Some of his compliments," the Queen resumed, "particularly
pleased me. I had practised Hebrew during the journey to Jerusalom,
but was not sure whether I had mastered it adequately. I was there-
fore delighted when he said, Thy speech is comely.' "
"Very nice of him," said Beelzebub. "And did he at the same
time remark that your Majesty's temples are like a piece of pome-
"Well, really," said the Queen, "this is getting uncanny! He did
say so, and I thought it rather an odd remark. But how on earth
did you guess ?"
"Well," Beelzebub replied, "you know all great men have kinks,
and one of his is a peculiar interest in pomegranates."
"It is true," said the Queen, "that so me of his comparisons are
12 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
a little odd. He said, for instance, that my eyes were like the fish-
pools of Heshbon."
"I have known him," said Beelzebub, "to make even stranger
comparisons. Did he ever compare your Majesty's nose to the
Tower of Lebanon ?"
"Good gracious," said the Queen, "this is too much! He did
make that comparison. But you are persuading me that you must
have some more intimate source of knowledge than I had suspected."
"Your Majesty," Beelzebub replied, "I fear that what I have to
say may cause you some pain. The fact is that some of his wives
were friends of mine, and through them I got to know him well/*
"Yes, but how about this love poem?"
"Well, you see, when he was young, while his father was still
alive, he had to take more trouble. In those days he loved a farmer's
virtuous daughter, and only overcame her scruples by his poetic
gifts. Afterwards, he thought it a pity the gifts should be wasted,
and he gave a copy to each of his ladies in turn. You see, he was
essentiallya collector, as you must have noticed when you went
over his house. By long practice, he made each in turn think herself
supreme in his affections; and you, dear lady, are his last and most
"Oh, the wretch!" she said. "Never again will I be deceived by
the perfidy of man. Never again will I let flattery blind me. To
think that I, who throughout my dominions am accounted the
wisest of women, should have permitted myself to be so misled!"
"Nay, dear lady," said Beelzebub, "be not so cast down, for
Solomon is not only the wisest man in his dominions, but the
wisest of all men, and will be known as such through countless ages.
To have been deceived by him is scarcely matter for shame."
"Perhaps you are right," she said, "but it will take time to heal
the wound to my pride."
"Ah, sweet Queen," Beelzebub replied, "how happy could I be
if I could hasten the healing work of Time ! Far be it from me to
imitate the wiles of that perfidious monarch. From me shall flow
only simple words dictated by the spontaneous sentiments of the
heart. To you, the Peerless, the Incomparable, the Matchless Jewel
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA*S NIGHTMARE ZJ
of the South, I would give if you permit it whatever balm a true
appreciation of your worth can offer."
"Your words are soothing/' she replied, "but can you match
his splendours? Have you a palace that can compare with his?
Have you such store of precious stones ? Such robes, purveying the
aroma of myrrh and frankincense ? And, more important than any
of these, have you a wisdom equal to his ?"
"Lovely Sheba," he replied, "I can satisfy you on every point.
I have a palace far grander than Solomon's. I have a far greater
store of precious stones. My robes of State are as numerous as the
stars in the sky. And as for wisdom, his is not a match for mine.
Solomon is surprised that, although the rivers flow into the sea,
yet the sea is not full. I know why this is, and will explain it to your
Majesty on some long winter evening. To come to a more serious
lapse, it was after he had seen you that he said 'there is no new
thing under the sun.' Can you doubt that in his thoughts he was
comparing you unfavourably with the farmer's daughter of his
youth? And can any man be accounted wise who, having beheld
you, does not at once perceive that here is a new wonder of beauty
and majesty? No! In a competition of wisdom I have nothing to
fear from him."
With a smile, half of resignation concerning the past, and half
of dawning hope for a happier future, she turned her eyes upon
Beelzebub and said: "Your words are beguiling. I made a long
journey from my kingdom to Solomon's, and I thought I had seen
what is most noteworthy on this earth. But, if you speak truth,
your kingdom, your palace, and your wisdom, all surpass Solo-
mon's. May I extend my journey by a visit to your dominion?"
He returned her smile with one in which the appearance of love
barely concealed the reality of triumph. "I can imagine no greater
delight," he said, "than that you should allow me this opportunity
to place my poor riches at your feet. Let us go while yet the night
is young. But the way is dark and difficult, and infested by fierce
robbers. If you are to be safe, you must trust yourself completely
to my guidance."
"I will," she said. "You have given me new hope."
14 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
At this moment they arrived at a measureless cavern in the
mountain-side. Holding aloft a flaming torch, Beelzebub led the
way through long tunnels and tortuous passages. At last they
emerged into a vast hall lit by innumerable lamps. The walls and
roof glittered with precious stones whose scintillating facets flashed
back the light of the lamps. In solemn state, three hundred silver
thrones were ranged round the walls.
"This is indeed magnificent," said the Queen.
"Oh," said Beelzebub, "this is only my second-rate hall of
audience. You shall now see the Presence Chamber."
Opening a hitherto invisible door, he led her into another hall,
more than twice as large as the first, more than twice as brilliantly
lit, and more than twice as richly jewelled. Round three walls of
this hall were seven hundred golden thrones. On the fourth wall
were two thrones, composed entirely of precious stones, diamonds,
sapphires, rubies, huge pearls, bound together by some strange art
which the Queen could not fathom.
"This," he said, "is my great hall, and of the two jewelled
thrones, one is mine and the other shall be yours."
"But who," she said, "is to occupy the seven hundred golden
"Ah well," he said, "you will know that in due course."
As he spoke, a queenly figure, only slightly less splendid than
the Queen of Sheba, glided in and occupied the first of the golden
thrones. With something of a shock, the Queen of Sheba recognized
Solomon's Chief Consort.
"I had not expected to meet her here," she said with a slight
"Ah well," said Beelzebub, "you see I have magic powers. And
while I have been wooing you, I have been telling this good lady
also that Solomon is .not all he seems. She listened to my words
as you have listened, and she has come."
Scarcely had he finished speaking, when another lady, whom
also the Queen of Sheba recognized from her visit to Solomon's
harem, entered and occupied the second golden throne. Then
came a third, a fourth, a fifth, until it seemed as if the procession
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA*S NIGHTMARE 1 5
would never end. At last all the seven hundred golden thrones were
"You may be wondering," Beelzebub remarked in silken tones,
"about the three hundred silver thrones. All these are by now
occupied by Solomon's three hundred concubines. All the thousand
in this hall and the other have heard from me words not unlike
those that you have heard, all have been convinced by me, and all
"Perfidious monster!" exclaimed the Queen. "How could I
have had the simplicity to let myself be deceived a second time !
Henceforth I will reign alone, and no male shall ever again be
given a chance to deceive me. Good-bye, foul fiend ! If you ever
venture into my dominions, you shall suffer the fate that your
villainy has deserved."
"No, good lady," Beelzebub replied, "I am afraid you do not
quite realize the position. I showed you the way in, but only I
can find the way out. This is the abode of the dead, and you are
here for all eternity but not for all eternity on the diamond throne
beside mine. That you will occupy only until you are superseded
by an even more divine queen, the last Queen of Egypt."
These words produced in her such a tumult of rage and despair
that she awoke.
"I fear," said the Grand Vizier, "that your Majesty has had
MR. BOWDLER'S NIGHTMARE
Mr. Bowdler, the highly meritorious author of The Family Shakes-
peare, which the most innocent young lady could read without a
blush, never showed in waking life any doubt of the usefulness of
his labours. It would seem, however, that somewhere within the
depths of that good man's unconscious there must have lurked a
still small voice, malign and mocking. It was his practice on
Sundays to dispense liberal helpings of pork to his family and not
least to himself. It was accompanied by boiled potatoes and cabbage,
and followed by roly-poly pudding. For himself, though not for
the rest of the household, there was a moderate portion of ale.
After this repast, it was his custom to take a brisk walk. But once,
when snow and sleet were falling heavily, he permitted himself to
break through his usual routine and rest in a chair with a good
book. The good book, however, was not very interesting, and he
fell asleep. In his sleep he was afflicted by the following nightmare:
MR. BOWDLER S NIGHTMARE IJ
Mr. Bowdler was believed by all the world, and is still believed
by many, to have been a pattern of all the virtues. He had, however,
at one time dreadful reason to doubt whether, in fact, he was all
that his neighbours believed him.
In his youth he wrote a scathing attack upon Wilkes (of Wilkes &
Liberty), whom he considered, not wholly without reason, to be a
libertine. Wilkes was, by this time, past his prime, and no longer
capable of taking such vengeance as in earlier years would have
been natural to him. He left in his will a considerable sum of money
to young Mr. Spiffkins, with the sole condition that Mr. Spiffkins,
to the best of his ability, should bring disaster upon the head of
Mr. Bowdler. Mr. Spiffkins, I regret to say, unhesitatingly accepted
the unscrupulous legacy.
With a view to carrying out the provisions of Wilkes's will, he
visited Mr. Bowdler under the guise of seeming friendship. He
found Mr. Bowdler in the fullest enjoyment of perfect family bliss.
He had a child on each knee, and was saying: "Ride a cock horse
to Banbury Cross." Presently two oth^t- Children began to clamour:
"Our turn now, Papa!" and they T turn, were provided
with oscillatory ecstasy. Mrs. Bowd* .om, good-natured, and
smiling, surveyed the happy scene whi ; bustled about preparing
Mr. Spiffkins, with that exquisite tact which had caused Mr.
Wilkes to select him, led the conversation to those literary topics
which he knew to be dear to the heart of Mr. Bowdler, and to the
principles which had guided that gentleman in making the works
of great men not unfit to be put into the hands of little women.
The utmost harmony prevailed until at last, after tea was over, and
Mrs. Bowdler could be seen through the open door of the pantry
washing up the tea-cups, Mr. Spiffkins rose to go. As he was saying
good-bye, he remarked:
"I am impressed, dear Mr. Bowdler, by your quiverful of domestic
blessings, but having carefully studied all the omissions that you
have made in the works of the Bard of Avon, I am compelled to
conclude that these smiling infants owe their existence to
18 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Mr. Bowdler, red with fury, shouted: "Get out!" and slammed
the door in the face of Mr. Spiffkins. But alas, Mrs. Bowdler, in
spite of the clatter of the tea-cups, had overheard the dreadful
word. What it meant she could not imagine, but since she did not
know it, and her husband disapproved of it, she had no doubt that
it must be a bad word.
It was not the sort of matter about which she could ask her
husband. He would only have replied: "My dear, it means some-
thing about which good women do not think." She was therefore
left to her own devices. She knew, of course, all about Genesis,
but the first half of the word remained obscure to her. One day,
greatly daring, she stole into her husband's library while he was
out, and fetching down the Classical Dictionary, read all that it
had to say about the Parthenon. But still the meaning of this
strange word eluded her. There was nothing about the Parthenon
in Genesis, and nothing about Genesis in the frieze of the Parthenon.
The more her researches were baffled, the more the subject
obsessed her. Her housf . 1 which had been impeccable, became
slovenly. She broodea ne Wednesday she even forgot to
provide shrimps for tec ng which she had not forgotten on
any Wednesday since ia PP7 day when she was united to
Mr. Bowdler in the holy mds of wedlock.
At last matters reached a point at which Mr. Bowdler felt it
necessary to summon medical assistance. The doctor asked in-
numerable questions, tapped Mrs. Bowdler's forehead with a little
wooden mallet, felt her bumps, and finally bled her, but all to no
avail. At last he said:
"Well, my dear lady, I fear there is only one cure for your com-
plaint, and that is edax rerum (his pedantic name for Time). We
must look to Time, the great healer."
"Pray, dear Doctor, where is edax rerum to be obtained?" said
"Anywhere," the doctor replied.
Although she had not much faith in his wisdom, for, after all,
she had not disclosed to him the source of the trouble, she never-
theless went to the family apothecary and asked him whether he
MR. ROWDLER'S NIGHTMARE t$
would supply her with edax rerum. He blushed and stammered and
said: "Madam, that is not the sort of thing that nice ladies ought
She retired in confusion.
Baffled in one direction, her desperate state impelled her to an
attempt in another. It was part of her husband's duty to read books
of the sort that he wished to suppress, and by examining the bills
of booksellers on his desk, she came to know the name and address
of one whom, judging by the items supplied to Mr. Bowdler, she
thought likely to possess literature even on so dreadful a subject
as that in which she was interested. Thickly veiled, she ventured
into his premises, and boldly said:
"Sir, I desire a book to instruct me on parthenogenesis."
"Madam," he replied, observing such charms of person as her
veil did not conceal, "parthenogenesis is what you will not learn
about if you come upstairs with me."
Horrified and frightened, she fled.
Only one hope remained to her, a hope involving a desperate
resolve and a courage of which she almost doubted herself to be
possessed. She remembered that her husband, in order to complete
his Family Shakespeare, that boon to every decent household,
had been forced, painful as the task undoubtedly must have been,
to read the unexpurgated works of that regrettably free-spoken
author. She knew that he possessed, behind the locked doors of a
certain book-case, a pre-Bowdlerian Shakespeare, in which all the
passages that he had wisely seen fit to omit were underlined in
order to facilitate the work of the printer. "Surely," she thought,
"where so much has been omitted, I am sure to find the word
'parthenogenesis* in some underlined passage, and I cannot doubt
that the context will show me the meaning of this word."
One day, when her husband had been invited to address a
congress of virtuous booksellers, she crept into his study, found
the key to the locked book-case after some search in his desk,
unlocked the fatal doors, and extracted the tattered volume with
its appalling lore. Page after page she perused, but nowhere did she
find the word she sought. She found, however, many things that
-20 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
she had not sought. Horrified, yet fascinated, repelled, and yet
absorbed, she read on and on, oblivious of the passage of time.
Suddenly she became aware that the door was open and that her
husband stood in the doorway. In tones of horror, he exclaimed:
"Good God, Maria, what volume do I behold in your hands?
Are you not aware that poison drips from its pages? that the
infection of lewd thoughts leaps from its every letter into the
unguarded female mind? Have you forgotten that it has been my
life's task to preserve the innocent from such pollution ? Oh, that
failure so dire should come upon me in the very bosom of my own
With that, the good man burst into tears, tears of mortification
and sorrow, aye, and of righteous anger too. Suddenly aware of
her sin, she dropped the volume, fled to her chamber, and burst
into heartrending sobs.
But penitence was of no avail. She had read too much. Not one
word of what she had read could she forget. Round and round in
her head went shameful words and dreadful images of horrid joys.
Hour by hour and day by day, the obsession grew more complete,
until at last she was seized with an ungovernable frenzy, and had
to be taken to the asylum, shouting Shakespearian obscenities to
the whole street as she was borne away. Mr. Dowdier, when her
terrible words were no longer audible, fell upon his knees, asking
his Maker for what sin he was thus punished. Unlike you and me,
he was unable to find the answer.
THE PSYCHOANALYST'S NIGHTMARE
Adjustment A Fugue
It is the fate of rebels to found new orthodoxies. How this is
happening to psychoanalysis has been persuasively set forth in
Dr. Robert Lindner's Prescription for Rebellion. Many psycho-
analysts, one must suppose, have their secret misgivings. It was
one of these who, though orthodox in his waking hours, was
afflicted during sleep by the following deeply disquieting nightmare:
In the hall of the Limbo Rotary Club, presided over by a statue
of Shakespeare, the Committee of Six was holding its annual
meeting. The Committee consisted of: Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth,
Othello, Antony, and Romeo. All these six, while they yet lived
on earth, had been psychoanalysed by Macbeth's doctor, Dr.
Bombasticus. Macbeth, before the doctor had taught him to speak
ordinary English, had asked, in the stilted language that in those
days he employed, "Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd?"
"Why, yes," replied the doctor, "of course I can. It is only necessary
22 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
that you should lie on my sofa and talk, and I will undertake to
listen at a guinea a minute." Macbeth at once agreed. And the
other five agreed at various times.
Macbeth told how at one time he had fancies of homicide, and
in a long dream saw all that Shakespeare relates. Fortunately, he
met the doctor in time, who explained that he saw Duncan as a
father-figure, and Lady Macbeth as a mother-ditto. The doctor,
with some difficulty, persuaded him that Duncan was not really
his father, so he became a loyal subject. Malcolm and Donalbain
died young, and Macbeth succeeded in due course. He remained
devoted to Lady Macbeth, and together they spent their days in
good works. He encouraged Boy Scouts, and she opened bazaars.
He lived to a great age, respected by all except the porter.
The statue, which had a gramophone in its interior, remarked at
this stage : "All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty
Macbeth started, and said, "Damn that statue. That fellow
Shakespeare wrote a most libellous work about me. He only knew
me when I was young, before I had met Dr. Bombasticus, and he
let his Imagination run riot over all the crimes he hoped I should
commit. I cannot see why people insist on doing honour to him.
There's hardly a person in his plays that wouldn't have been the
better for Dr. Bombasticus." Turning to Lear: "Don't you agree,
Lear was a quiet fellow, not much given to talk. Although he was
old, his hair was beautifully brushed and his clothes were very tidy.
Most of the time he seemed rather sleepy, but Macbeth's question
woke him up.
' "Yes, indeed, I agree," he said. "Why, do you know that at one
time I became obsessed with a phobia directed against my dear
daughters Regan and Goneril! I imagined that they were perse-
cuting me, and had a fantasy that they were reviving a cannibal
rite of eating the parent. This last I only realized after Dr. Bom-
basticus had explained it. I got so alarmed that I rushed out into
the storm at night and get very wet. I caught a chill which gave
me a fever, and I imagined that a certain joint-stool was first
THE PSYCHOANALYST S NIGHTMARE 23
Goneril and then Regan. I was made worse by my fool, and also
by a certain naked madman, who encouraged a belief in a return
to nature, and was always talking about irrelevant things such as
Tillicock' and 'Child Rowland.' Fortunately my illness was such
as to demand the services of Dr. Bombasticus. He soon persuaded
me that Regan and Goneril were just as kind as I had always
thought, and that my fantasies were due to irrational remorse
about the ungrateful Cordelia. Ever since my cure I have lived a
quiet life, appearing only on State occasions such as the birthdays
of my daughters, when I show myself on a balcony and the crowd
shouts, 'Three cheers for the old King 1* I used to have a tendency
towards rhodomontade, but this, I am happy to say, has dis-
At this point the statue remarked: "Thou, all-shaking thunder,
strike flat the thick rotundity of the world."
"And are you happy now?" asked Macbeth.
"Oh yes," said Lear, "I'm as happy as the day is long. I sit in
my chair playing patience or dozing, and thinking of nothing
The statue: "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."
"What a silly remark!" said Lear. "Life is not a fitful fever!
And I sleep well although I'm still alive. That's just the sort of
rubbish that I should have admired before I knew Dr. Bombasticus."
The statue allowed itself another remark: "When we are born,
we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools."
"Stage of fools," exclaimed Lear, losing for a moment that
equanimity which he had hitherto observed. "I do wish the statue
would learn to talk sense. Does it dare to think us fools? Us, the
most respected citizens of Limbo ! I wish Dr. Bombasticus could
get a go at the statue! What do you think about it, Othello?"
"Well," said Othello, "that wretch Shakespeare treated me even
worse than he did you and Macbeth. I only met him for a few days,
and it happened that I was at a crisis in my life at that moment.
I had made the mistake of marrying a white girl, and I soon realized
that it was impossible she should really love a coloured man. In
fact, at the time when Shakespeare knew me, she was plotting to
24 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
run away with my lieutenant, Cassio. I was delighted, as she was
an incubus. But Shakespeare imagined that I must be jealous. And
in those days I was rather fond of rhetoric, so I made up -some
jealous speeches to please him. Dr. Bombasticus, whom I met at
this time, showed me that the whole trouble came from my
inferiority complex, caused by my being black. In my conscious
self I had always thought it a fine thing to be black to be black
and nevertheless eminent. But he showed me that I had quite other
feelings in the unconscious, and that these caused a rage which
could only be assuaged in battle. After he had cured me I gave up
warfare, married a black woman, had a large family, and devoted
my life to trade. I never now feel any impulse to 'talk grand/ or
to utter the kind of nonsense that makes right-thinking citizens
The statue: "Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!"
"Hark at him," said Othello, "that's just the sort of thing I
might still be saying if it hadn't been for Dr. Bombasticus. But
nowadays I don't believe in violence. I find subservient cunning
much more effective."
The statue murmured, "I took by the throat the circumcised dog."
Suddenly Othello's eyes flashed, and he exclaimed, "Damn that
statue ! I'll take him by the throat if he doesn't look out."
Antony, who had hitherto been silent, asked, "And do you love
your black wife as much as you loved Desdemona?"
"Oh, well," said Othello, "it's a different kind of thing, you
know. It's an altogether more adult relation, more integrated with
my public duties. There is nothing unduly wild about it. It never
tempts me to such actions as a good Rotarian must deplore."
The statue remarked, "If it were now to die, 'Twere now to be
"Hark at him," said Othello, "that's just the sort of remark that
Professor Bombasticus cured me of. Owing to him, to whom I
can never be too thankful, I have no such excessive feelings now-
adays. Mrs. Othello is a good soul. She cooks me nice dinners.
She takes good care of my children. And she warms my slippers.
And I don't see what more a sensible man could want in a wife."
THE PSYCHOANALYST'S NIGHTMARE 25
The statue murmured: "Put out the light, and then put out the
Othello turned to it and said, "I won't say another word if you
keep on interrupting. But let's hear your story, Antony."
"Well," said Antony, "you here, of course, all know the extra-
ordinary lies Shakespeare told about me. There was a time no
long time, by the way when I saw in Cleopatra a mother-figure
with whom incest was not forbidden. Caesar had always been to
me a father-figure, and his association with Cleopatra made it not
unnatural that I should see her as a mother. But Shakespeare
pretended, so successfully as to have misled even serious historians,
that my infatuation was lasting and brought me to ruin. This, of
course, was not the case. Dr. Bombasticus, whom I met at the time
of the Battle of Actium, explained to me the workings of my
unconscious, and I soon perceived, under his influence, that
Cleopatra had not the charms with which I had invested her, and
that my love for her was only a fantasy-passion. Thanks to him,
I was able to behave sensibly. I patched up the quarrel with Octavius
and returned to his sister, who was, after all, my lawful wife. I
was thus enabled to live a respectable life, and to qualify for
membership of this committee. I regretted that public duty com-
pelled me to put Cleopatra to death, for only so could my recon-
ciliation with Octavia and her brother be solid. This duty was of
course unpleasant. But no well-adjusted citizen will shrink from
such duties when they are called for by the public good."
"And did you love Octavia?" asked Othello.
"Oh, well," said Antony, "I don't know exactly what one ought
to call love. I had for her the kind of feeling which a serious and
sober citizen ought to have for his wife. I esteemed her. I found
her a trustworthy colleague in public work. And I was able, partly
through her counsel, to live up to the precepts of Dr. Bombasticus.
But as for passionate love, as I had conceived it before I met that
eminent man, I set it aside and won instead the approbation of
The statue: "Of many thousand kisses, the poor last I lay upon
26 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
At these words Antony trembled from head to foot, and his
eyes began to fill with tears. But with an effort he pulled himself
together, and said, "No ! I have done with all that !"
The statue: "The bright day is done, and we are for the dark."
"Really," said Antony, "that statue is too immoral. Does he
think it fitting to speak of 'bright day' when he means wallowing
in the arms of a whore ? I can't think why the Rotarians put up
with him. But what do you say, Romeo ? You also, according to
that old reprobate, were somewhat excessively addicted to amorous
"Well," Romeo replied, "I think he was even wider of the mark
where I was concerned than he was about you. I have some dim
recollection of an adolescent romance with a girl whose name I
can't quite remember. It was something like Jemima or Joanna
Oh, no, I have it! It was Juliet."
The statue interrupted: "It seems she hangs upon the cheek of
night like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear."
"We were both," continued Romeo, "very young and very
silly, and she died in rather tragic circumstances."
The statue again interrupted: "Her beauty makes this vault a
feasting presence full of light."
"Dr. Bombasticus," Romeo went on, "who was in those days
an apothecary, cured me of the foolish despair that for a short time
I was inclined to feel. He showed me that my real motivation was
rebellion against the father, which led me to suppose that it was a
grand thing to love a Capulet. He explained how rebellion against
the father has been throughout the ages a source of ill-regulated
conduct, and reminded me that in the course of nature the adolescent
who is a son today will be a father tomorrow. He cured me of the
unconscious hate towards my father, and enabled me to become a
staid and worthy upholder of the honour of the Montagues. I
married in due course a niece of the Prince. I was universally
respected, and I uttered no more of those extravagant senti-
ments which, as Shakespeare showed, could only have led to
The statue: "Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die."
THE PSYCHOANALYST'S NIGHTMARE 23
"Well, that's enough about me," said Romeo. "Let's hear about
"I,". Hamlet began, "was quite exceptionally fortunate in
meeting Dr. Bombasticus when I did, for I was certainly in a very
bad way. I was devoted to my mother, and imagined that I was
devoted to my father, though Dr. Bombasticus later persuaded
me that I really hated him out of jealousy. When my mother
married my uncle, the hate of my father, which had been uncon-
scious, showed itself in a conscious hate of my uncle. This hate so
worked upon me, that I began to have hallucinations. I thought I
saw my father, and in my fantasy he seemed to be telling me that
he had been murdered by his brother. I thought it was my duty
to murder my uncle. And once, thinking that he was hidden behind
a curtain, I stabbed at something which I thought was going to be
him. But it was only a rat, though, in my madness, I thought it
was the Prime Minister. This showed everybody that my derange-
ment was dangerous, and Dr. Bombasticus was called in to cure
me. I must say he did a very good job. He made me aware of my
incestuous feelings towards my mother, of my unconscious hatred
of my father, and of the transference of this feeling to my uncle.
I had had a quite absurd sense of self-importance, and had thought
that the time was out of joint and I was born to set it right. Dr.
Bombasticus persuaded me that I was very young and had no
understanding of statecraft. I saw that I had been wrong to oppose
the established order, to which any well-adjusted person will
conform. I apologized to my mother for any rude things I might
have said. I established correct relations with my uncle though
I must confess that I still found him somewhat prosy. I married
Ophelia, who made me a submissive wife. In due course I succeeded
to the Kingdom, and in disputes with Poland I upheld the honour
of the country by successful battles. I died universally respected,
and even my uncle was not more honoured in the national memory
than I was."
The statue: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking
makes it so."
"Hark at the old boy," said Hamlet, "still saying the same
28 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
nonsense. Is it not obvious that what I did was good? And that
what Shakespeare pretended that I had done was bad?"
Macbeth asked, "Didn't you have a friend of your own age who
rather encouraged you in your follies?"
"Oh yes/' Hamlet replied. "Now you mention it, there was a
young man. Now what was his name? Was it Nelson? No, I don't
think that's quite right. Oh, I have it it was Horatio! Yes, he
certainly was a bad influence."
The statue: "Good night, Sweet Prince, and flights of angels
sing thee to thy rest!"
"Oh, yes," said Hamlet, "that's all very fine. It's the sort of
maladjusted remark that Shakespeare delighted in. But as for me,
when I had been cured by Dr. Bombasticus, I threw over Horatio
and took up with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who, as Dr.
Bombasticus pointed out, were completely adjusted."
The statue murmured: "Whom I will trust as I will adders
"And what do you think of it all now that you ai;e dead?"
"Oh^ well," Hamlet replied, "there are times I will not deny
it when I feel a certain regret for the old fire, for the golden
words that flowed from my mouth, and for the sharp insight that
was at once my torment and my joy. I can remember even now a
fine piece of rhetoric that I manufactured, beginning, 'What
a piece of work is a man.' I will not deny that in its own mad world
it had a kind of merit. But I chose to live in the sane world, the
world of earnest men who perform recognized duties without
doubt and without question, who never look beneath the surface
for fear of what they might see, who honour their father and their
mother and repeat the crimes by which their father and their
mother flourished, who uphold the State without asking whether
it deserves to be upheld, and piously worship a God whom they
have made in their own image, and who subscribe to no lie unless
it furthers the interests of the strong. To this creed, following the
teaching of Dr. Bombasticus, I subscribed. By this creed I lived.
And in this creed I died."
THE PSYCHOANALYST'S NIGHTMARE 23
The statue: "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.*'
"Noqsense, old truepenny!" said Hamlet. "I never have dreams.
I am delighted with the world as I find it. It is everything that I
could wish. What is there that humbugs like me cannot achieve?"
The statue: "One may smile and smile and be a villain."
"Well/ 5 said Hamlet, "I'd rather smile and be a villain, than
weep and be a good man."
The statue: "All which, Sir, though I most powerfully and
potently believe, yet I hold it not here honesty to have it thus set
"Yes," said Hamlet, "what is justice to me if I can profit by
The statue: "For who would bear the whips and scorns of
"Oh, don't torture me !" exclaimed Hamlet.
The statue: "You go not till I set you up a glass where you may
see the inmost part of you."
"O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!" exclaimed Hamlet.
"To Hell with Dr. Bombasticus! To Hell with adjustment! To
Hell with prudence and the praise of fools!" With this Hamlet fell
in a faint.
The statue: "The rest is silence."
At this point a strange shriek was heard, a shriek from the
depths, coming up through a tube that the Rotarians had never
before noticed. An anguished voice moaned: "I am Dr. Bom-
basticus ! I am in Hell ! I repent ! I killed your souls. But in Hamlet
some spark survived and by that I am condemned. I have lived in
Hell, but for what crime I knew not until now. I have lived in Hell
for preferring subservience to glory; for thinking better of servility
than of splendour; for seeking smoothness rather than the lightning-
flash; for fearing thunder so much that I preferred a damp, un-
ending drizzle. Hamlet's repentance has made me know my sin.
In the Hell in which I live, complexes without end dominate me.
Though I call upon St. Freud, it is in vain; I remain imprisoned in
an endless vortex of insane commonplace. Intercede for me, you
JO NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
who are my victims ! I will undo the evil work I wrought upon
But the five who remained did not listen. Turning in fury upon
the statue, which had brought despair upon their friend Hamlet,
they assaulted it with savage blows. Bit by bit, it crumbled. When
nothing was left but the head, it murmured, "Lord, what fools
these mortals be!"
The five remained in Limbo. Dr. Bombasticus remained in Hell.
But Hahilet was wafted above by angels and ministers of grace.*
* Ophelia was co-opted in Hamlet's place on the Committee,
THE METAPHYSICIAN'S NIGHTMARE
Retro Me Satanas
My poor friend Andrei Bumblowski, formerly Professor of
Philosophy in a now extinct university of Central Europe, appeared
to me to suffer from a harmless kind of lunacy. I am myself a person
of robust common sense; I hold that the intellect must not be taken
as a guide in life, but only as affording pleasant argumentative
games and ways of annoying less agile opponents. Bumblowski,
however, did not take this view; he allowed hr 11
him whither it would, and the results
and to most of his friends the gr
obscure. What was known was
word "not" and all its synonyrr
not fresh," but "chemical chang
it was laid." He would not say '
books I have found are other tl
"thou shalt not kill," but "thoi
unpractical, but innocent, and I f
It was doubtless this affection ^
32 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
led him to relate to me the following very remarkable experience,
which I give in his own words:
I had at one time a very bad fever of which I almost died. In
my fever I had a long consistent delirium. I dreamt that I was in
Hell, and that Hell is a place full of all those happenings that are
improbable but not impossible. The effects of this are curious.
Some of the damned, when they first arrive below, imagine that
they will beguile the tedium of eternity by games of cards. But they
find this impossible, because, whenever a pack is shuffled, it comes
out in perfect order, beginning with the Ace of Spades and ending
with the King of Hearts. There is a special department of Hell for
students of probability. In this department there are many type-
writers and many monkeys. Every time that a monkey walks on
a typewriter, it types by chance one of Shakespeare's sonnets.
There is another place of torment for physicists. In this there are
kettles and fires, but when the kettles are put on the fires, the water
in them freezes. There are also stuffy rooms. But experience has
taught the physicists never to open a window because, when they
do, all the air rushes out and leaves the room a vacuum. There is
another region for gourmets. These men are allowed the most
exquisite materials and the most skilful chefs. But when a beefsteak
is served up to them, and they take a confident mouthful, they find
that it tastes like a rotten egg; whereas, when they try to eat an
* P e in o a b ac j potato.
; nful chamber inhabited solely by philo-
le. These philosophers, though in
They continue to be governed by
induction. But every time that
j next instance falsifies it. This,
le first hundred years of their
:o expect that an induction will
falsified until another century of
'r expectation. Throughout all
:h time at a higher logical level*
THE METAPHYSICIAN'S NIGHTMARE 33
Then there is the Inferno of the orators who have been accustomed
while they lived to sway great multitudes by their eloquence.
Their eloquence is undimmed and the multitudes are provided, but
strange winds blow the sounds about so that the sounds heard by
the multitudes, instead being of those uttered by the orators, are
only dull and heavy platitudes.
At the very centre of the infernal kingdom is Satan, to whose
presence only the more distinguished among the damned are ad-
mitted. The improbabilities become greater and greater as Satan is
approached, and He Himself is the most complete improbability
imaginable. He is pure Nothing, total non-existence, and yet
I, because of my philosophical eminence, was early given
audience with the Prince of Darkness. I had read of Satan as der
Geist der stets verneint, the Spirit of Negation. But on entering the
Presence I realized with a shock that Satan has a negative body as
well as a negative mind. Satan's body is, in fact, a pure and complete
vacuum, empty not only of particles of matter but also of particles
of light. His prolonged emptiness is secured by a climax of im-
probability: whenever a particle approaches His outer surface, it
happens by chance to collide with another particle which stops it
from penetrating the empty region. The empty region, since no
light ever penetrates it, is absolutely black not more or less black,
like the things to which we loosely ascribe this word, but utterly,
completely and infinitely black. It has a shape, and the shape is * Unf
which we are accustomed to ascribe to Satan' u ~
and all. AH the rest of Hell is filled w : *
this background Satan stands out
immobile. On the contrary, the
stituted is in perpetual motion. 1
swinges the horror of His foldec
He goes forth to conquer new rea
Himself in shining white armou
nothingness within. Only His ey>
eyes piercing rays of nothingne
may conquer. Wherever they f
34 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
prohibition, wherever they find a cult of not-doing, there they
enter into the inmost substance of those who are prepared to receive
Him. Every negation emanates from Him and returns with a harvest
of captured frustrations. The captured frustrations become part of
Him, and swell His bulk until He threatens to fill all space. Every
moralist whose morality consists of "don'ts," every timid man who
"lets I dare not wait upon I would," every tyrant who compels
his subjects to live in fear, becomes in time a part of Satan.
He is surrounded by a chorus of sycophantic philosophers who
have substituted pandiabolism for pantheism. These men maintain
that existence is only apparent; non-existence is the only true
reality. They hope in time to make the non-existence of appearance
appear, for in that moment what we now take to be existence will
be seen to be in truth only an outlying portion of the diabolic
essence. Although these metaphysicians showed much subtlety, I
could not agree with them. I had been accustomed while on earth
to oppose tyrannous authority, and this habit remained with me in
Hell. I began to argue with the metaphysical sycophants:
"What you say is absurd," I expostulated. "You proclaim that
non-existence is the only reality. You pretend that this black hole
which you worship exists. You are trying to persuade me that the
non-existent exists. But this is a contradiction: and, however hot
the flames of Hell may become, I will never so degrade my logical
being as to accept a contradiction."
this point the President of the sycophants took up the argu-
r ^i-, my friend," he said. "You deny that the
c is this to which you deny existence ?
ny statement about it is nonsense.
oes not exist. I am afraid you have
r ical analysis of sentences, which
?n you were a boy. Do you not
,ect, and that, if the subject were
isense ? So, when you proclaim,
10 is the non-existent does not
bt been here for some time and
THE METAPHYSICIAN'S NIGHTMARE j5
continue to embrace somewhat antiquated doctrines. You prate of
sentences having subjects, but all that sort of talk is out of date.
When I say that Satan, Who is the non-existent, does not exist,
I mention neither Satan nor the non-existent, but only the word
'Satan' and the word 'non-existent.' Your fallacies have revealed to
me a great truth. The great truth is that the word 'not' is super-
fluous. Henceforth I will not use the word 'not.' "
At this all the assembled metaphysicians burst into a shout of
laughter. "Hark how the fellow contradicts himself," they said
when the paroxysm of merriment had subsided. "Hark at his great
commandment which is to avoid negation. He will NOT use the
word 'not,' forsooth!"
Though I was nettled, I kept my temper. I had in my pocket a
dictionary. I scratched out all the words expressing negation and
said: "My speech shall be composed entirely of the words that
remain in this dictionary. By the help of these words that remain,
I shall be able to describe everything in the universe. My descriptions
will be many, but they will all be of things other than Satan. Satan
has reigned too long in this infernal realm. His shining armour was
real and inspired terror, but underneath the armour therd was only
a bad linguistic habit. Avoid the word 'not,' and His empire is at
Satan, as the argument proceeded, lashed His tail with ever-in-
creasing fury, and savage rays of darkness shot from His cavernous
eyes. But at the last, when I denounced Him as a bad linguistic habit,
there was a vast explosion, the air rushed in from all sides, and the
horrid shape vanished. The murky air of Hell, which had been
due to inspissated rays of nothingness, cleared as if by magic. What
had seemed to be monkeys at the typewriters were suddenly seen
to be literary critics. The kettles boiled, the cards were jumbled,
a fresh breeze blew in at the windows, and the beefsteaks tasted like
beefsteaks. With a sense of exquisite liberation, I awoke. I saw that
there had been wisdom in my dream, however it might have worn
the guise of delirium. From that moment the fever abated, but the
delirium as you may think it has remained.
THE EXISTENTIALIST'S NIGHTMARE
The Achievement of Existence
Porphyre Eglantine, the great philosopher-poet, is known far and
wide for his many subtle and profound writings, but above all for
his immortal Chant du Ndant:
Dans un immense desert,
Un 6tendu infini de sable,
Je cherche le chemin perdu,
Le chemin que je ne trouve pas.
Mon ame plane par ci, par 1,
Dans toutes directions,
Cherchant, et ne rencontre rien, parmi >
Ce vide immense,
Ce vide sans cesse,
Ce sable blouissant et touffant,
Ce sable monotone et morne,
S'tendant sans fin jusqu'ci Pultime horizon.
THE EXISTENTIALIST S NIGHTMARE J7
Une voix en meme temps foudroyante et douce.
Cette voix me dit :
"Tu penses que tu es une ame perdue.
Tu penses que tu es une ame.
Tu te trompes. Tu n'es pas une ame.
Tu n'es pas perdu,
Tu n'es rien.
Tu n'existes pas."
Although this poem is so well known, few people know the cir-
cumstances which led to it and the events to which it led. Painful
as it is, it is my duty to recount these circumstances and these
Porphyre was, from his earliest youth, sensitive and suffering.
He was haunted by the fear that perhaps he did not exist. Every
time he looked in a mirror he was filled with apprehension lest
his image should not appear. He invented a philosophy which, he
hoped, would dispel this terror. But from time to time this philo-
sophy failed to satisfy him. As a rule he was able to bury his doubts,
but the Chant du Neant, which expresses a sudden shattering vision,
shows his lack of success. He determined that at all costs he would
exist so indubitably as to silence the spectral voice.
Introspection and observation alike had persuaded him that
nothing is so real as pain, and that he could achieve existence only
through suffering. He sought suffering throughout the world in a
pilgrimage of sorrow. He spent a solitary winter in the Antarctic
while the unending night inspired visions of future gloom.
He exposed himself to tortures in Nazi Germany by pretending
to be a Jew. But just at the moment when they were growing
unendurable, Poe's Raven came hop, hop, hop into the con-
centration camp; and, speaking with the voice of Mallarme, croaked
the dreadful refrain: "Tu ne souffres pas. Tu n'es rien. Tu n'existes
38 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
He went next to Russia, where he pretended to be a spy for Wall
Street, and spent a long winter felling timber beside the White
Sea. Hunger and fatigue and cold daily penetrated more deeply
into his inmost being. Surely, he thought, if this goes on much
longer, I shall exist. But no. On the last day of winter, as the snow
began to melt, the dreadful Bird appeared once more, and again
uttered the fell words.
Perhaps, he thought, the sufferings I have been seeking are too
simple. If I am to be truly miserable I must mix with my sorrows
an element of shame.
In pursuance of this programme he went to China and fell
passionately in love with an exquisite Chinese girl who stood high
in the counsels of the Communist Party. By means of forged
documents, he caused her to be condemned as an emissary of the
British Government. Frightful tortures were inflicted upon her in
his presence. What at last the agony brought death, he thought,
"now, I really have suffered. For down to the last moment I have
loved her passionately and I have brought her to ruin by my
dastardly treachery. Surely this should be enough to make me
suffer to the limits of human capacity.'* But no. With a cold terror
that made him incapable of the smallest movement, he watched
the Bird of Fate again appearing, and speaking once more with
the voice of the immortal poet who had introduced the bird to the
Parisian literary public.
With an immense effort he gave utterance to his despair while
yet the Bird remained. "O Raven," he said, "is there anything,
anything in all this wide world, which will lead you to admit that I
exist?" The Raven uttered one word: "Seek"; and then vanished.
It must not be supposed that Porphyre had allowed his quest to
absorb all his energies. He remained throughout a philosopher-
poet, admired everywhere, but most of all in the most esoteric
circles. On his return from China he was invited to a Congress of
Philosophy in Paris, of which the chief purpose was to do him
honour. All the guests were assembled except the President. While
Porphyre wondered when the President would come, the Raven
came and occupied the Chair of Honour. Turning to Porphyre
THE EXISTENTIALIST S NIGHTMARE J9
it varied the formula and in ringing tones, which all the Congress
heard, it said: "Ta philosophic n'existe pas. Elle n'est rien." At
these worbs a pang of anguish, such as no previous experience had
equalled or even approached, shot through all his being. And he
fell in a faint. As he came to, he heard the Bird utter the words for
which he had longed: "Enfin, tu souffres. Enfin, tu exist es."
He awoke, and lo ! it had been a dream.
But he never again talked or wrote philosophy.
THE MATHEMATICIAN'S NIGHTMARE
The Vision of Professor Squarepunt
My lamented friend Professor Squarepunt, the eminent mathe-
matician, was during his lifetime a friend and admirer of Sir Arthur
Eddington. But there was one point in Sir Arthur's theories which
always bewildered Professor Squarepunt, and that was the mystical,
cosmic powers which Sir Arthur ascribed to the number 137. Had
the properties which this number was supposed to possess been
merely arithmetical no difficulty would have arisen. But it was
above all in physics that 137 showed its prowess, which was not
unlike that attributed to the number 666. It is evident that conversa-
tions with Sir Arthur influenced Professor Squarepunt's nightmare.
The mathematician, worn out by a long day's study of the
theories of Pythagoras, at last fell asleep in his chair, where a strange
drama visited his sleeping thoughts. The numbers, in this drama,
THE MATHEMATICIAN S NIGHTMARE 41
were not the bloodless categories that he had previously supposed
them. They were living breathing beings endowed with all the
passions which he was accustomed to find in his fellow mathe-
maticians. In his dream he stood at the centre of endless concentric
circles. The first circle contained the numbers from i to 10; the
second, those from n to 100; the third, those from 101 to 1000;
and so on, illimitably, over the infinite surface of a boundless plain.
The odd numbers were male; the evens, female. Beside him in the
centre stood Pi, the Master of Ceremonies. Pi's face was masked,
and it was understood that none could behold it and live. But
piercing eyes looked out from the mask, inexorable, cold and
enigmatic. Each number had its name clearly marked upon its
uniform. Different kinds of numbers had different uniforms and
different shapes: the squares were tiles, the cubes were dice, round
numbers were balls, prime numbers were indivisible cylinders,
perfect numbers had crowns. In addition to variations of shape,
numbers also had variations of colour. The first seven concentric
rings had the seven colours of die rainbow, except that 10, 100,
1000, and so on, were white, while 13 and 666 were black. When a
number belonged to two of these categories for example if, like
1000, it was both round and a cube it wore the more honourable
uniform, and the more honourable was that of which there were
fewer among the first million numbers.
The numbers danced round Professor Squarepunt and Pi in a
vast and intricate ballet. The squares, the cubes, the primes, the
pyramidal numbers, the perfect numbers and the round numbers
wove interweaving chains in an endless and bewildering dance, and
as they danced they sang an ode to their own greatness:
We are the finite numbers.
We are the stuff of the world.
Whatever confusion cumbers
The earth is by us unfurled.
We revere our master Pythagoras
And deeply despise every hag or ass.
Not Endor's witch nor Balaam's mount
We recognize as wisdom's fount.
42 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
But round and round in endless ballet
We move like comets seen by Halley.
And honoured by the immortal Plato
We think no later mortal great-o.
We follow the laws
Without a pause,
For we are the finite numbers.
At a sign from Pi the ballet ceased, and the numbers one by one
were introduced to Professor Squarepunt. Each number made a
little speech explaining its peculiar merits. /
i : I am the parent of all, the father of infinite progeny. None
would exist but for me.
2: Don't be so stuck-up. You know it takes two to make more.
3 : 1 am the number of Triumvirs, of the Wise Men of the East,
of the stars in Orion's Belt, of the Fates and of the Graces.
4 : But for me nothing would be four-square. There would be no
honesty in the world. I am the guardian of the Moral Law.
5: I am the number of fingers on a hand. I make pentagons and
pentagrams. And but for me dodecahedra could not exist; and, as
everyone knows, the universe is a dodecahedron. So, but for me,
there could be no universe.
6: I am the Perfect Number. I know that I have upstart rivals:
28 and 496 have sometimes pretended to be my equals. But they
come too far down the scale of precedence to count against me.
7: I am the Sacred Number: the number of days of the week,
the number of the Pleiades, the number of the seven-branched
candlesticks, the number of the churches of Asia, and the number
of the planets for I do not recognize that blasphemer Galileo.
8: I am the first of the cubes except for poor old One, who by
this time is rather past his work.
9 : I am the number of the Muses. All the charms and elegancies
of life depend upon me.
10 : It's all very well for you wretched units to boast, but I am
the godfather of all the infinite hosts behind me. Every single one
owes his name to me. And but for me they would be a mere mob
and not an ordered hierarchy.
THE MATHEMATICIAN'S NIGHTMARE 43
At this point the mathematician got bored and turned to Pi,
"Don't you think the rest of the introductions could be taken
for granted?" At this there was a general outcry:
n shrieked, "But I was the number of the Apostles after the
defection of Judas."
12 exclaimed, "I was the godfather of the numbers in the days of
the Babylonians and a much better godfather I was than that
wretched 10, who owes his position to a biological accident and not
to arithmetical excellence."
13 growled, "I am the master of ill-luck. If you are rude to me,
you shall suffer."
There was such a din that the mathematician covered his ears
with his hands and turned an imploring gaze upon Pi. Pi waved his
conductor's baton and proclaimed in a voice of thunder: "Silence!
Or you shall all become incommensurable." All turned pale and
Throughout the ballet the Professor had noticed one number
among the primes, 137, which seemed unruly and unwilling to
accept its place in the series. It tried repeatedly to get ahead of
i and 2 and 3, and showed a subversiveness which threatened to
destroy the pattern of the ballet. What astonished Professor Square-
punt even more than this disorderly conduct was a shadowy spectre
of an Arthurian Knight which kept whispering in the ear of 137:
"Go it! Go it! Get to the top!" Although the shadowy character
of the spectre made recognition difficult, the Professor at last
recognized the dim form of his friend, Sir Arthur. This gave him
a sympathy with 137 in spite of the hostility of Pi, who kept trying
to suppress the unruly prime.
At length 137 exclaimed: "There's a damned sight too much
bureaucracy here ! What I want is liberty for the individual." Pi's
mask frowned. But the Professor interceded, saying, "Do not be
too hard on him. Have you not observed that he's governed by a
Familiar. I knew this Familiar in life, and from my knowledge I can
vouch that it is he who inspires the anti-governmental sentiments
of 137. For my part, I should like to hear what 137 has to say."
44 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Somewhat reluctantly, Pi consented. Professor Squarepunt said:
"Tell me, 137, what is the basis of your revolt ? Is it a protest against
inequality that inspires you? Is it merely that your ego has been
inflated by Sir Arthur's praise? Or is it, as I half suspect, a deep
ideological rejection of the metaphysic that your colleagues have
imbibed from Plato ? You need not fear to tell me the truth. I will
make your peace with Pi, about whom I know at least as much as
he does himself."
At this, 137 burst into excited speech: "You are right! It is their
metaphysic that I cannot bear. They still pretend that they are
eternal, though long ago their conduct showed that they think no
such thing. We all found Plato's heaven dull and decided that it
would be more fun to govern the sensible world. Since we descended
from the Empyrean we have had emotions not unlike yours: each
Odd loves its attendant Even; and the Evens feel kindly towards
the Odds, in spite of finding them very odd. Our empire now is
of this world, and when the world goes pop, we shall go pop too."
Professor Squarepunt found himself in agreement with 137. But
all the others, including Pi, considered him a blasphemer, and turned
updn both him and the Professor. The infinite host, extending in all
directions farther than the eye could reach, hurled themselves upon
the poor Professor in an angry buzz. For a moment he was terrified.
Then he pulled himself together and, suddenly recollecting his
waking wisdom, he called out in stentorian tones: "A vaunt! You
are only Symbolic Conveniences !"
With a banshee wail, the whole vast array dissolved in mist.
And, as he woke, the Professor heard himself saying, "So much
[Written before Stalin's death]
Amor Vincit Omnia
Stalin, after copious draughts of vodka mixed with red pepper,
had fallen asleep in his chair. Molotov, Malenkov and Beria, with
fingers to their lips, warned off intrusive domestics who might
interfere with the great man's repose. While they guarded him, he
had a dream, and what he dreamt was as follows:
The third World War had been fought and lost. He was a
captive in the hands of the Western Allies. But they, having observed
that the Nuremberg trials generated sympathy for the Nazis,
decided this time to adopt a different plan: Stalin was handed over
to a committee of eminent Quakers, who contended that even he,
by the power of love, could be led to repentance and to the life of a
It was realized that until their spiritual work had been completed
46 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
the windows of his room must be barred lest he should be guilty
of a rash act, and he must not be allowed access to knives lest in a
fit of fury he should attack those engaged in his regeneration. He
was housed comfortably in two rooms of an old country house,
but the doors were locked, except during one hour of every day
when, in the company of four muscular Quakers, he was taken for
a brisk walk during which he was encouraged to admire the beauties
of nature and enjoy the song of the lark. During the rest of the day
he was allowed to read and write, but he was not allowed any
literature that might be considered inflammatory. He was given
the Bible, Pilgrims Progress and Uncle Toms Cabin. And some-
times for a treat he was allowed the novels of Charlotte M. Yonge.
He was allowed no tobacco, no alcohol and no red pepper. Cocoa
he might have at any hour of the day or night, since the most
eminent of his guardians were purveyors of that innocent beverage.
Tea and coffee were permitted in moderation, but not in such
quantities or at such time as might interfere with a wholesome
During one hour of every morning and one hour of every
evening the grave men to whose care he had been entrusted
explained the principles of Christian charity and the happiness that
might yet be his if he would but acknowledge their wisdom. The
task of reasoning with him fell especially upon the three men who
were accounted wisest among those who hoped to make him see
the light. These were Mr. Tobias Toogood, Mr. Samuel Swete
and Mr. Wilbraham Weldon.
He had been acquainted with these men in the days of his
greatness. Not long before the outbreak of the third World War
they had journeyed to Moscow to plead with him and endeavour to
convince him of the error of his ways. They had talked to him of
universal benevolence and Christian love. They had spoken in
glowing terms of the joys of meekness, and had tried to persuade
him that there is more happiness in being loved than in being
feared. For a little while he had listened with a patience produced
by astonishment, and then he had burst out at them. "What do
you gentlemen know of the joys of life?" he had stormed. "How
STALIN S NIGHTMARE 47
little you understand of the intoxicating delight of dominating a
whole nation by terror, knowing that almost all desire your death
and that none can compass it, knowing that your enemies through-
out the world are engaged in futile attempts to guess your secret
thoughts, knowing that your power will survive the extermination
not only of your enemies but of your friends. No, gentlemen, the
way of life you offer me does not attract me. Go back to your
pettifogging pursuit of profit gilded with a pretence of piety, but
leave me to my more heroic way of life."
The Quakers, baffled for the moment, went home to wait for a
better opportunity. Stalin, fallen and in their power, might, they
now hoped, show himself more amenable. Strange to say, he still
proved stubborn. They were men who had had much practice with
juvenile delinquents, unravelling their complexes, and leading them
by gentle persuasion to the belief that honesty is the best policy.
"Mr. Stalin," said Tobias Toogood, "we hope that you now
realize the unwisdom of the way of life to which you have hitherto
adhered. I shall say nothing of the ruin you have brought upon
the world, for that, you will assure me, leaves you cold. But
consider what you have brought upon yourself. You have fallen
from your high estate to the condition of a humble prisoner, owing
what comforts you retain to the fact that your gaolers do not
accept your maxims. The fierce joys of which you spoke when we
visited you in the days of your greatness can no longer be yours.
But if you could break down the barrier of pride, if you could
repent, if you could learn to find happiness in the happiness of
others, there might yet be for you some purpose and some tolerable
contentment during the remainder of your days."
At this point Stalin leapt to his feet and exclaimed: "Hell take
you, you snivelling hypocrite. I understand nothing of what you
say, except that you are on top and I am at your mercy, and that
you have found a way of insulting my misfortunes more galling
and more humiliating that any that I invented in my purges."
"Oh, Mr. Stalin," said Mr. Swete, "how can you be so unjust
and so unkind ? Can you not see that we have none but the most
benevolent intentions towards you? Can you not see that we wish
48 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
to save your soul, and that we deplore the violence and hatred that
you promoted among your enemies as among your friends? We
have no wish to humiliate you, and could you but appreciate
earthly greatness at no more than its true worth, you would see
that it is an escape from humiliation that we are offering you/'
"This is really too much," shouted Stalin. "When I was a boy, I
put up with talk like this in my Georgian seminary, but it is not
the sort of talk to which a grown man can listen with patience. I
wish I believed in Hell, that I might look forward to the pleasure of
seeing your blandness dissipated by scorching flames."
"Oh fie, my dear Mr. Stalin!" said Mr. Weldon. "Pray do not
excite yourself, for it is only by calmness that you will learn to see
the wisdom of what we are trying to show you."
Before Stalin could retort, Mr. Toogood once again intervened:
"I am sure, Mr. Stalin,"he said, "that a man of your great intelligence
cannot forever remain blind to the truth, but at the moment you
are overwrought, and I suggest that a soothing cup of cocoa
might be better for you than the unduly stimulating tea you have
At this Stalin could contain himself no longer. He took the
teapot and hurled it at Mr. Toogood's head. The scalding liquid
poured down his face, but he only said, "There, there, Mr. Stalin,
that is no argument." In a paroxysm of rage Stalin awoke. For a
moment the rage continued and vented itself upon Molotov,
Malenkov and Beria, who trembled and turned pale. But as the
clouds of sleep cleared away, his rage evaporated, and he found
contentment in a deep draught of vodka and red pepper.
[Written in 1952, during Stalin's life]
The McCarthy-Malenkov Pact
Eisenhower, after two years as President, was compelled to realize
that conciliation is a one-way street. He did much with a view
to placating his Republican opponents, and at first he supposed
that they would make some response, but none was forthcoming.
In profound discouragement, gloomy thoughts kept him awake
throughout the greater part of a hot summer night. When at last
he fell into an uneasy sleep he was afflicted by a devastating night-
mare in which a voice out of the future revealed the history of the
We, from the secure haven of the dawning twenty-first century,
can see what was less obvious at the time: that the year 1953 saw
the beginning of the new trend which has transformed the world.
There were certain problems of which at that time foresighted
So NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
people were conscious. One of these was that in every civilized
country industry was favoured at the expense of agriculture, with
the result that the world's food supply was diminishing. Another
was the rapid growth of population in backward countries, which
resulted from advances in medicine and hygiene. A third was the
chaos that was in danger of resulting from the collapse of European
imperialism. Such problems, which were in any case difficult,
were rendered totally insoluble by the East- West conflict. During
the eight years from 1945 to 1953 this conflict had grown con-
tinually more menacing, not only through political developments,
but also through the prospect of hydrogen bombs and bacterio-
logical warfare. On each side no solution of the conflict was
offered, except to make one's own side so strong that the other
would not dare to attack. Past experience suggested that this was
not a very hopeful method of averting war.
It was in 1953 that the first beginnings of a new hope became
visible. In this year Stalin first retired and then died. He was
succeeded by Malenkov, who considered it prudent to signalize
his advent to power by a nominally new policy, although in fact
this policy had already been partially adopted. Two main dangers
troubled him. On the one hand, there was widespread discontent
in Russia. On the other hand, it was to be feared that China might
before long become as powerful as Russia and capable of challenging
Russian supremacy in the Communist world. To meet the first of
these dangers it was necessary to increase very largely the Russian
production of consumer goods, which could only be done at the
expense of armaments. To meet the second danger it was necessary
to diminish the risk of world war, which was also necessary if it
was to be safe to slacken the pace of rearmament. Meantime the
change to Republican government in America had brought a new
emphasis. Many people both in America and in other countries had
failed to note that, in a conflict between President and Congress,
the victory was likely to go to Congress, owing to the power of
the purse. This might have been inferred from the history of the
conflict between King and Parliament in England in the seventeenth
century. But it was not thought by most Americans that anything
EISENHOWER'S NIGHTMARE 5i
could be learned either from the past or from foreign countries.
Many of those who had voted for Eisenhower imagined that if he
were elected his policy would prevail. They did not reflect that
in electing him they were giving control of Congress to Taft and
McCarthy. It was in fact these two men who controlled United
States policy during Eisenhower's Presidency. And of the two,
McCarthy gradually became increasingly dominant. Average
Americans were governed by two fears, fear of Communism and
fear of the income tax. So long as the Democrats remained in power
these two fears worked in opposite directions. But McCarthy
discovered how to reconcile them. The real enemy, he said, is the
Communist in our midst, and it is very much cheaper to fight the
Communist in our midst than to fight Russia. So long as Americans
are loyal and united so he told the nation they are invincible,
and have no need to fear the machinations of alien despotism.
If we purge our country of disloyal elements we shall be safe. But,
in order by this policy to slake the popular thirst for combating
Communism, it was necessary to discover continually new internal
enemies. By acquiring control of the F.B.I., and by the help of a
band of subservient ex-Communists, McCarthy succeeded in
spreading the dread of internal treachery to a point where every
prominent member of the Democratic Party was thought to be a
traitor, with the exception of a tiny virtuous remnant consisting of
such men as Senator McCarran. Under the cover of this policy it
became possible to save enormous sums which in the time of
Truman had been spent in aiding foreign countries. The resulting
spread of Communism in France and Italy was held to show that
it had not been worth while to spend money on such undependable
Eisenhower, though he disliked this policy, found himself
powerless to combat it. He had wished to strengthen N.A.T.O.
and to make it possible to defend Western Europe against a Com-
munist onslaught. But Western Europe was expensive to defend.
It contained many Communists, and still more Socialists, who
were almost equally objectionable. It was ungrateful and not
adequately aware of its own inferiority. It was always clamouring
$2 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
for a lowering of the American tariff, and it did not love Chiang
Kai-shek. On such grounds, Eisenhower was always defeated in
McCarthy's policy had two results: on the one hand it greatly
diminished the grounds of external conflict and made relations
with Russia less precarious; on the other hand it made it clear that
no American could hope to save his own skin if he opposed
McCarthy. In the Presidential election of 1956 McCarthy was
triumphantly elected by an even greater majority than that of
Roosevelt twenty years earlier.
It was this overwhelming success which enabled McCarthy to
crown his labours by the McCarthy-Malenkov Pact. By this Pact
the world was divided between the two Great Powers: all Asia
and all Europe east of the Elbe was to be in the Russian sphere;
all the Western hemisphere, all Africa and Australia and all Europe
west of the Elbe was to be in the sphere of the United States. There
was to be no trade whatever between the two groups and no inter-
course except for such rare diplomatic meetings as might be
absolutely inevitable, which should take place in Spitzbergen.
Outside the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. industry should be kept at a
minimum by control of raw materials, and by sterner methods if
necessary. Western Europeans should retain nominal independence,
and might, if they chose, preserve their old-world system of party
government, free speech and free Press. But they should not be
allowed to travel in the United States for fear of infecting virtuous
citizens with their antiquated heresies.
Certain features of the Russian system were adopted in America.
Only one party, the Republican Party, was henceforth to be
tolerated. The Press and Literature were subjected to a rigid
censorship. All political criticism was held subversive, and exposed
the critic to penalties. Indoctrination became the main aim of
education. There were, no doubt, some who regretted these
changes; but it had to be conceded that by means of the Pact the
danger of world war was averted, and it became possible to cut
down armaments drastically both in America and in Russia.
There had been some difficult points in negotiating the Pact.
EISENHOWER'S NIGHTMARE 5j
One of them was Japan. America had rearmed Japan in the hope
that that country would be an ally against Russia, but, if Russia
and the United States jointly were to dominate the world, no strong
independent Power could be tolerated. Japan was forced to disarm.
The island of Hokkaido was assigned to the Russian sphere, and
the remainder of Japan to the sphere of the United States.
There were of course provisions about propaganda. There was
to be no anti-American propaganda in Russia, and no anti-Russian
propaganda in America. No one in Russia should be allowed to
question the historical truth that Peter the Great was an American.
No one in America should be allowed to question the historical
truth that Columbus was a Russian. No one in Russia should
mention the colour problem in the Southern States; and no one
in America should mention the forced labour in Russia. Each should
praise the achievements of the other and hold out for all future time
the benefits of their eternal alliance.
The Pact was not popular in Western Europe because it relegated
that region to the unimportance to which it had doomed itself by
internecine wars. It was difficult for Western Europe to acquiesce
in its loss of status, since it had for centuries dominated the world
both politically and culturally. Many Americans, from deference to
the traditions which it was admitted had helped to build American
civilization, were prepared to treat Western Europe with a con-
sideration which, in the actual state of the world, came in time to
seem excessive. It was clear that war would ruin what remained of
West European civilization even if in the end Russia were com-
pletely defeated, and it was not clear that war could be averted by
any effort or sacrifice short of the Pact. On these grounds, when
the Pact was concluded, the feelings of Western Europeans were
There were, of course, on each side people who thought that
the other side had got the best of the bargain. Some Russians
pointed out that, with the help of China, they could before long
have acquired Australia, and that they had considerable hope of
acquiring Western Germany by peaceful penetration. They also
argued that Africa, even if not acquired by Russia, could have been
54 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
cleared of White men if the energies of America and Western
Europe had continued to be absorbed in combating Russia. On
the American side there were also grave misgivings. It was a
wrench to sacrifice Malayan tin and rubber, but synthetic rubber
and Bolivian and Australian tin afforded adequate substitutes. More
serious was the loss of Middle Eastern oil. To make this endurable
it was at last agreed that Indonesia should be in the American bloc.
There were some in America who were genuinely persuaded that
Communism is an evil thing with which peace ought not to be
made. These, however, were few, and mostly Democrats, so that
their opinion carried little weight. To the Russians, apart from
secure peace, the most important gain was the possibility of keeping
China in a subordinate position by preventing its industrial
development. In both camps, White imperialism was once more
Apart from the preservation of peace, the Pact had other
advantages. The dissensions among White nations had shaken the
dominion which, during the nineteenth century, they had acquired
in Asia and Africa. Owing to the Pact, White supremacy was soon
re-established. The Russians conquered India and Pakistan without
much difficulty; and in Africa, where outbreaks of ferocious
barbarism supported by Communists had threatened the civilizing
work of British and French imperialism, this work was resumed
under the aegis of American investors and quickly brought to a
successful conclusion. The problem of over-population, which it
was thought immoral to deal with by diminishing the birth-rate,
was made manageable by forbidding all medical instruction of
Negroes and all White measures for improving their sanitary
conditions. The resulting increase in the death-rate enabled White
men to breathe freely once more.
In spite of all these benefits, there were still some grumblers.
There were people who thought it regrettable that no work by a
Jew could be published anywhere. There were people in America
who wished to read poets who praised Liberty, such as Milton,
Byron and Shelley. For a time such poets could still be read in
Western Europe. But when it came to the knowledge of Congress
EISENHOWER'S NIGHTMARE 55
that they were distributed in cheap editions in these retrograde
nations, it was decided that economic sanctions must be imposed
until their works were placed upon the Index. In the new world
brought about by the Pact there was much material comfort, but
there was no art, no new thought, and little new science. Nuclear
physics of course was wholly forbidden. All books dealing with it
were burnt, and persons showing any knowledge of it were con-
demned to forced labour. Some misguided romantics looked back
with regret to the centuries when there had been great individuals,
but if they were prudent they kept their regret to themselves.
There were doubts at first as to whether the Pact would be
observed, but McCarthy and Malenkov found each other so
congenial and so united in their aims that they had no difficulty
about genuine co-operation. Each designated as his successor a
man with the same aims, and forty-three years have persuaded all
but a peevish minority that the Pact is as permanent as it is
beneficent. All honour to the memory of the two great leaders
who brought peace to the world !
DEAN ACHESON'S NIGHTMARE
[Written before Eisenhower's nomination]
The Swan-Song of Menelaus S. Bloggs
Dean Acheson, in retirement, dreamed that he read an article in a
Republican journal, which said: "Dean Acheson, .as all right-
minded people rejoice to know, is suffering the just penalty of
his crime. We all remember how, after six hours' continuous
questioning by a Congressional Committee, he stated that a certain
event, which had occurred seven years earlier, had taken place on
a Tuesday. Conclusive evidence was produced to show that it had
taken place on a Wednesday. On this ground he was prosecuted
for perjury, and sentenced to a long term as a convict. In spite of
this conviction, he remained impenitent and, to those who were
allowed to see him, he persisted in maintaining that the policy
which had been substituted for his own must lead to disaster."
After he had read this article the dream changed its character,
and it seemed to him that the veil which hides the future was
partially withdrawn and a spectral voice, in mournful tones, told
him of events still to come. The voice said:
DEAN ACHESON'S NIGHTMARE 57
This is the swan-song of Senator Menelaus S. Bloggs, about to
perish miserably in the Falkland Islands:
There are those who blame our immortal President, Bismarck A.
McSaft, for the misfortunes which have befallen my native land.
But their blame is unjust. And before I die, I must record the noble
heroism with which that great and gallant gentleman fought for
the right. I am not long for this world. Along with millions of
others, we sought these neutral shores believing, because of the
reports of the Bureau of Fisheries, that the supply of fish in
southern latitudes was inexhaustible. Alas, we little knew the
resources of science. Every fish within a thousand miles of this
storm- tossed archipelago has died a radio-active death. Some rash
men, when these deaths were first reported, ventured to eat such
fish as were but lately dead. But, alas, for these men ! The plutonium
in their stomachs proved fatal, and they died in appalling agonies.
Deprived of fish, we quickly devoured the few sheep and cattle to
be found in the rare pastures of these inhospitable sub-polar shores.
And now, like reindeer, we subsist on moss. But the supply of
moss, alas, is not inexhaustible. And in this last remnant of the
free world the few who are not in prison will soon perish. But to
my task. I have a duty to posterity, should there be any. That
great and good man will be maligned by the enemies who have
overthrown him. He will go down to what these wretches call
history in undeserved infamy. But I have found a casket impervious
to radio-activity, within which I shall bury this record in the
confident hope that the archaeologists of some future age will
unearth it and by its means do justice to the great man who is no
We, in these Islands, remember and our hearts still beat high
with the recollection the jubilation of all right-minded citizens
when it was found in November 1956 that the destinies of our
great country were to be wrenched from the feeble hands of the
Trumans and Achesons and the almost equally feeble Eisenhowers
who had been but tools of the Kremlin, and be entrusted at least
for four crucial years to the unbending patriotism of Bismarck A.
McSaft. No sooner had he become President than he began to
58 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
act with that straightforward vigour which the undeviating con-
sistency of his public utterances had led us to expect. No longer
should American energy and American enthusiasm for the right
be held in leash by the cowardly nations of Western Europe. No
longer should traitors and crypto-Communists be allowed to
pretend that Chiang Kai-shek had his faults and that the Chinese
did not love him. A great army was dispatched to place him in the
seat of power in Peking. The Chinese Communists displayed the
faint-heartedness that was to be expected of them. They avoided
pitched battles. They drew our brave boys farther and farther into
the infertile mountains. They compelled us to disperse our forces
over wide areas in the defence of cities and railways and arterial
roads. We held the East of China securely, as it seemed. But the
West continued to elude our grasp. More and more of our troops
became engulfed in the struggle. Our atom bombs were uselessly
expended in areas where population was sparse and enemy armies
had split up into roving guerrilla bands.
Meanwhile, the Russians, as was to be expected, inflicted upon
the miserable nations of Western Europe what their wretched
passion for self-preservation had made inevitable. Without much
opposition the Russians occupied the Ruhr and Lorraine and
Northern France. Those of the population who had industrial
skill were allowed to perform slave labour on the spot. Those
who had not, were sent to fell timber in the forests of Archangel
or to mine gold in North-Eastern Siberia. Russian submarines made
the communications of the American forces in China precarious,
In the end, their hardships were such that it was decided to bring
Latin America, meantime, from Rio Grande to Cape Home,
had embraced the Communist faith. All Asia, except the regions
actually occupied by American troops, had long since gone over
to Moscow. The activities of Dr. Malan had converted the Africans
to Communism. And, during the invasion of Western Europe by
Russiatl troops, every White man in Africa, from Cape Bon to the
Cape of Good Hope, had had his throat cut. After the Russians
had occupied South Africa, giant planes conveyed troops and
DEAN ACHESON'S NIGHTMARE
munitions to Latin America. A vast propaganda effort persuaded
the upland populations of Peru, Bolivia and Brazil that Russia
was the champion of the Red man against the White oppressor.
Encouraged by gigantic massacres, vast hordes of Red men, dis-
ciplined and armed by the Kremlin, advanced through Mexico
against the remnants of the army that had been brought back from
China an army discouraged by defeat, enfeebled by malaria,
and, though I confess it with shame, not quite persuaded of the
justice of its cause.
When I saw that all was over, I embarked along with many others
on a ship lying ready on the Potomac. I lived oh, shame ! to see
the Hammer and Sickle hoisted over the Capitol. In another moment
our frail barque would have been sunk by Russian guns, but a
merciful Providence hid us in a sudden mist and we escaped.
There are those among us who say that these tragic events prove
a defect in the policy of our great President. The men who say this
do not understand moral issues. It is far nobler to fight for the
right and perish heroically than to be enmeshed in considerations
of petty policy which may save our bodies but not our souls.
Physically the United States is no more; but morally it lives for
ever, a beacon light, a shining splendour, upon whose immortal
banner are inscribed the great words of our last and noblest Pre-
sident: "We will fight for righteousness though the heavens fall,
and for freedom, though it involve the imprisonment of nine-tenths
of our population." With these immortal words graven upon my
heart, I prepare myself calmly for death. Amen.
So impressed was Dean Acheson by this strange and gloomy
narrative that he found it impossible not to believe it a true glimpse
into the future. In this belief he confided the revelation of Senator
Bloggs to his attorney, who used it to support an appeal for a
revision of the sentence on the ground of insanity.
"But I am not insane !" Dean Acheson exclaimed. And, with this
exclamation, he awoke.
DR. SOUTHPORT VULPES'S NIGHTMARE
The Victory of Mind Over Matter
Dr. Southport Vulpes had had a long, tiring day at the Ministry of
Mechanical Production. He had been trying to persuade the officials
that there was no longer need of human beings in factories except
for one to each building to act as caretaker and turn the switch
on or off. He was an enthusiast, and was merely puzzled by the
slow and traditional mentality of the bureaucrats. They pointed
out that his schemes would require a vast capital outlay in the
way of robot factories, and that, before their output had become
adequate, they might be wrecked by rioting wage-earners or
stopped dead by the fiat of indignant trade unions. Such fears
seemed to him paltry and unimaginative. He was amazed that the
splendid visions by which he was fired did not at once kindle like
hopes in those to whom he endeavoured to communicate them.
Coming out of the cold March drizzle, discouraged and exhausted,
he sank into a chair and, in the welcome warmth, he fell asleep.
In sleep he experienced all the triumph that had eluded him in his
waking hours. He dreamed; and the dream was sweet:
DR. SOUTHPORT VULPES's NIGHTMARE 6l
The third World War, like the Siege of Troy, was in its tenth
year. In a military sense, its course had been inconclusive. Some-
times victory seemed to incline to the one side, sometimes to the
other, but never decisively or for any long period to either. But
from the technical point of view, which alone concerned Dr.
Vulpes, its progress had been all that could be wished.
During the first two years of the War, robots had been substituted
for live workers in all factories on both sides, thereby releasing
immense reserves of man-power for the armies. But this advance,
which Governments at first welcomed enthusiastically, proved less
satisfactory than had been hoped. The casualties, caused largely
by bacteriological warfare, were enormous. In some parts of the
vast fronts, after destructive pestilences, the survivors mutinied
and clamoured for peace. For a time, the rival Governments
despaired of keeping the War alive, but Dr. Vulpes and his oppo-
site number Phinnichovski Stukinmudovich found a way of
surmounting the crisis.
During the third and fourth years of the War they manufactured
military robots who took the place of Privates in the infantry of
both sides. In the fifth and sixth years, they extended this process
to all officers below the rank of General. They discovered also that
the work of education or of indoctrination, as it was now officially
called could be performed with far more certainty and exactness
by machines than by live teachers and professors. It had been found
very difficult to eliminate personal idiosyncrasies completely from
live educators, whereas the mass-produced indoctrinators, manu-
factured by Dr. Vulpes and Comrade Stukinmudovich, all said
exactly the same thing and all made precisely the same speeches
about the importance of victory. The consequent improvement
in morale was truly remarkable. By the eighth year of the War,
none of the young people who were trained for the higher command
over the vast robot armies shrank from the almost complete certainty
of death in the plague-stricken areas where the fighting took place.
But step by step, as they died, increased mechanical ingenuity
found means of rendering them superfluous.
At last almost everything was done by robots. Some human
62 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
beings, so far, had proved indispensable: geological experts to
direct the mining robots into suitable areas, Governments to decide
great matters of policy, and, of course, Dr. Vulpes and Comrade
Stukinmudovich to devote their great brains to new heights of
These two men were both whole-hearted enthusiasts. Both were
above the battle in the sense that they cared nothing for the issues
on which politicians wasted their eloquence, but only for the
perfecting of their machines. Both liked the War because it induced
the politicians to give them scope. Neither wished the War to end,
since they feared that with its ending men would fall back into
traditional ways and would insist upon again doing, by means of
human muscles and brains, things that robots could do without
fatigue and with far more precision. Their objects being identical,
they were close friends though this had to be kept as a secret from
their politician employers. They had used some portion of their
armies of robots to make a great tunnel through the mountains
of the Caucasus. One mouth of the tunnel was held by the forces
of the West, the other by the forces of the East. Nobody except
Dr. Vulpes and Comrade Stukinmudovich knew that the tunnel
had two mouths, for, except for themselves, they allowed only
robots into the tunnel. They had employed the robots to heat the
tunnel, and to light it brilliantly, and to fill it with great stores of
food in capsules scientifically calculated to promote life and health,
though not to delight the palate, for both lived only in the life of
the mind and were indifferent to the joys of sense.
Dr. Vulpes, as he was about the enter the tunnel, permitted
himself some unprofessional reflections upon the world of sunlight
that he was temporarily abandoning for one of his periodical
conferences with Comrade Stukinmudovich. Gazing upon the
sea below and the snowy peaks above, dim recollections floated
into his mind of the classical education upon which, at the bidding
of old-fashioned parents, some of his early years had been reluc-
tantly wasted. "It was here," so he reflected, "that Prometheus
was chained by Zeus, Prometheus who took the first step in that
glorious progress of science which has led to the present splendid
DR. SOUTHPORT VULPES's NIGHTMARE 63
consummation. Zeus, like the Governments of my youth, preferred
the ancient ways. But Prometheus, unlike me and my friend
Stukinmudovich,had not discovered how to outwit the reactionaries
of his day. It is fitting that I should triumph on the spot where he
suffered, and that Zeus with his paltry lightnings should be put in
his place by our atomic skill." With these thoughts he bade farewell
to the daylight and advanced to meet his friend.
They had had during the course of the War many secret con-
ferences. In perfect mutual confidence they had communicated to
each other whatever inventions might make the War more
ingenious and more lasting.
In the middle of the tunnel he was met by his friend Stukinmudo-
vich advancing from the East. They clasped hands and gazed into
each other's eyes with warm affection. For a little moment before
they became engulfed in technicalities they allowed themselves to
rejoice in their joint work. "How beautiful," they said, "is the
world that we are creating ! Human beings were unpredictable, often
mad, often cowardly, sometimes afflicted with anti-governmental
ideals. How different are our robots ! On them propaganda always
has the intended effect."
"What," said the two sages to each other, "what could the most
ardent moralist desire that we have not provided ? Man was liable
to sin; robots are not. Man was often foolish; robots never are.
Man was liable to sexual aberrations; robots are not. You and I,"
they said to each other, "have long ago decided that the only thing
that counts in a man is his behaviour i.e. what may be viewed
from without. The behaviour of our robots is in all respects better
than that of the accidental biological product which has hitherto
puffed itself up with foolish pride. How ingenious are their devices !
How masterly their strategy! How bold their tactics, and how
intrepid their conduct in battle! Who that is not the victim of
obsolete superstition could desire more?"
Dr. Vulpes and Comrade Stukinmudovich had discovered
means of making their robots sensitive to eloquence. The best
speeches of the statesmen on the two sides were recorded, and at
the sound of their soul-stirring words the wheels of the robots
64 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
began to whirr and they behaved, though with more precision, as
politicians had hoped that living crowds would behave. Only slight
differences were needed to make the robots of one side respond to
one kind of propaganda and those of the other to a different kind.
Dr. Vulpes's robots responded to the noble words of our Great
Western Statesman: "Can we hesitate, when we see vast hordes
determined to extirpate belief in God, and to wipe out in our hearts
that faith in a beneficent Creator which sustains us through all
ardours, difficulties and dangers ? Can we endure to think that we
are nothing but ingenious mechanisms, as our soulless enemies
pretend? Can we forgo that immortal heritage of freedom for which
our ancestors fought, and in defence of which we have been com-
pelled to inflict upon thousands the rigours of incarceration ? Can
any of us hesitate at such a moment? Can any of us hold back?
Can any of us think for one moment that the sacrifice of our mere
individual life, of our petty personal existence is to be weighed against
the preservation in the world of those ideals for which our ancestors
fought and bled? No! A thousand times, No! Onward, fellow
citizens ! And in the knowledge of right be assured of the ultimate
triumph of our Cause!"
All Dr. Vulpes's robots were so constructed that, when a gramo-
phone recited these noble words in their presence, they set them-
selves to perform, without hesitation or doubt, their allotted task,
of which the ultimate purpose was to prove that the world is not
governed by mere mechanism.
Comrade Stukinmudovich's robots were equally efficient and
responded with equal readiness to the gramophone records of the
Generalissimo's inspired utterances: "Comrades, are you prepared
to be for ever the slaves of soulless capitalist exploiters ? Are you
prepared to deny the great destiny which Dialectical Materialism
has prepared for those who are emancipated from the chains imposed
by base exploiters? Can anything so dead, so lifeless, so cruel, so
base as the foul philosophy of Wall Street subdue the human race
for ever? No ! A thousand times, No ! Freedom is yours if you will
work for it now with that ardour with which your precursors
worked to create the Great State that is now your champion.
DR. SOUTHPORT VULPES'S NIGHTMARE 65
Onward to Victory! Onward to Freedom! Onward to Life and
Joy!" These words on the gramophone equally activated Stukin-
The rival armies met in their millions. The rival planes, guided
by robots, darkened the sky. Never once did a robot fail in its duty.
Never once did it flee from the field of battle. Never once did its
machinery whirr in response to enemy propaganda.
Until this meeting in the tenth year of the war, the happiness of
Dr. Vulpes and Comrade Stukinmudovich had had its limitations.
There were still human beings in Governments, and human beings
were still necessary as geological experts to direct the robots to new
sources of raw material as the old sources became exhausted. There
was a danger that Governments might decide upon peace. There
was another danger even more difficult to avert, that, if geological
experts were eliminated, the activities of robots might some day
be brought to an end by the exhaustion of mines. The first of these
dangers was not unavoidable. When they met on this occasion
they confided to each other that they had plans for the mutual
extermination of the Governments on each side. But the need of
geological experts remained to trouble them. It was to the solution
of this problem that they devoted their joint intelligence on this
occasion. At last, after a month of arduous thought, they arrived
at the solution. They invented pathfinder robots capable of guiding
others to the right mines. There were robots that could find iron,
robots that could find oil, robots that could find copper, robots
that could find uranium, and so on through all the materials of
scientific warfare. Now at last they had no fear that when existing
mines were no longer productive the war would have to stop, and
so much ingenuity would cease to function.
When they had completed the manufacture of these pathfinding
robots they decided to stay in their tunnel and await calmly the
extinction of the rest of the human race. They were no longer
young and they had the philosophic calm of men whose work was
completed. The two sages, fed and tended by hoards of subservient
robots, lived to a great age and died at the same moment. They
died happy, knowing that, while the planet lasted, the war would
66 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
continue, with no diplomatists to call it off, no cynics to doubt the
holiness of rival slogans, no sceptics to ask the purpose of unending
Filled with enthusiasm, Dr. Vulpes awoke. As he woke, he heard
himself exclaiming: "No more risk of Victory! War forever!*'
Unfortunately, the words were overheard, and he was sent to gaol.
Professor Driuzdustades, the eminent Head of the College of
Indoctrination, with portly step and billowing gown, mounted to
his desk in the reverently restored hall of the Incas at Cuzco, and
faced the eager audience at the beginning of the academic year.
He had succeeded to his important office on the death of his scarcely
less eminent father, Professor Driuzdust. The students to whom
he was about to lecture were the hundred most promising in the
whole realm. They had finished their ordinary studies, and were
now about to embark upon their post-graduate curriculum which
secured to the College of Indoctrination its immense power over
opinion. The eager young faces looked up to him for the weighty
words of wisdom which, they did not doubt, were about to flow
from his lips. Of the whole hundred there were two who showed
especial brilliance: one was his son Thomas who, it was hoped,
would in due course succeed to his father's august office; the other
yO NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
was a girl named Diotima. She was beautiful, earnest and profound,
and had captured the heart of Thomas.
After clearing his throat and taking a sip of water, the Professor
spoke as follows:
"The subject of my lecture today will be the thirtieth century
before Zahatopolk or, as it was called by those who lived in it,
the twentieth century A.D. It is thought by the wise men who
regulate education in this happy land that you, the chosen hundred,
are by this time sufficiently firm in understanding and appreciation
of our holy religion and of the revelation which we owe to the
divine Founder Zahatopolk, to be able to hear without loss of
mental equilibrium about ages lacking our faith and our wisdom.
You will, of course, never for one moment forget that they were
ages of darkness. Nevertheless, as serious students of history it
will be your duty at times a difficult and painful duty to set
aside in imagination all that you know of the true and the good
and to realize that even in that darkness there were men who,
at least in comparison with others of their time, might be accounted
virtuous. You will have to learn not to shudder at the thought
that even men who were universally respected, publicly and with-
out shame ate peas. What perhaps you will find only slightly less
difficult to forgive is the fact that, when the number of their children
exceeded three, they did not, as we do, eat the excess to the glory
of the State, but selfishly kept them alive. In a word, you will have
to cultivate historic imagination. You will, of course, understand
that this, though a virtue in you, the chosen lite, would be sub-
versive and highly dangerous if it spread to wider circles. You will
understand that what is said in this lecture-room is 'said to the
wise, and is not to be broadcast to the vulgar. With this proviso, I
will proceed to my task.
"The thirtieth century B.Z. was a time of chaos and transition.
It was the time when the Graeco-Judaean synthesis was replaced
by the Prusso-Slavic philosophy. It was a time of convulsions and
disasters; a time when that basis of dogma, without which no
society can be stable, was absent in the minds of young and old
alike. There had been a time known to the nostalgic victims of
doubt as the age of Faith, when the Graeco-Judaean synthesis had
been unquestioningly accepted, except by small minorities which,
very properly, had been silenced by the rack or exterminated by
the stake. But this age had been brought to an end by a pernicious
doctrine which, I am happy to say, has never found any advocates
among us. This was called the doctrine of toleration. Men actually
believed that a State could be stable in spite of fundamental diver-
gences in the religious beliefs of the citizens. This insane delusion
it was, which caused the Graeco-Judaean synthesis to fall before
the new virile dogmatism of the Prusso-Slavic philosophy. Pray
do not mistake me. I am not suggesting and I hope none of you
will imagine for one moment that I am suggesting that there
was any least particle of truth either in the dogmas of the Graeco-
Judaean synthesis or in those of the Prusso-Slavic philosophy.
Neither foresaw the divine Zahatopolk. Neither recognized the
innate superiority of the Red Man. Neither grasped the great
principles upon which, among ourselves, both public and private
life are so happily established. I am saying only one thing con-
cerning these outworn systems: I am saying that while they sur-
vived and while they were believed with sufficient fervour to make
insistence upon uniformity inevitable, so long they could hold
society together after a fashion though not, of course, with that
smooth perfection which we owe to the Zahatopolkian revelation.
All past systems had their imperfections which caused them to
fall. The Prusso-Slavic system in its heyday looked solid; so did
its successor, the Sino-Javanese system. But their defects, in the
end, brought about their downfall. Only the Zahatopolkian system
has no defects; and therefore, only the Zahatopolkian system will
last as long as there are human beings to supply Zahatopolk with
The Professor told how almost all the accounts that we possess
of the dissolution of the Graeco-Judaean synthesis are from the
point of view of the victors, representing the triumphant march
of the divine Satalinus and the extermination in every part of the
world of the lingering adherents of the defeated system. But the
Professor pointed out that, wherever possible, the historian must
NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
search for records from both points of view, and must allow the
vanquished their share in the historian's pages.
"Fortunately," he continued, "a document has recently come to
light in the Falkland Islands which enables its readers to view
with human sympathy the bewilderment and despair that mark
the end of a great era."*
After reading this document the Professor continued:
"Throughout the reign of the Prusso-Slavic philosophy docu-
ments such as the above were, of course, unknown. Under the
banner of the great god Dialmet the inhabitants of the northern
plains established their victorious empire and maintained it with
all the ruthless dogmatism without which their preposterous myths
could not have won acceptance. Their two apostles, Marcus and
Leninius, became familiar in every part of the globe through the
ikons which every house had to possess on pain of death to its
occupiers. These two Founders became known familiarly as Long-
Beard and Short-Beard respectively, and it came to be generally
held that magic virtue resided in their hirsute appendages. Their
successor Satalinus, whose virtue was military rather than doctrinal,
was honoured only less than they were, and the lesser degree of
his honour was symbolized by the substitution of a mere moustache
for a beard. The German language, in which the sacred books of
this era were written, became extinct soon after the time of
Satalinus, and the sacred books could thereafter only be read by a
few learned men, who were not allowed to communicate directly
with the populace, but only through the medium of the supreme
political authority. This restriction was necessary because there
were passages in the scriptures which, if interpreted literally, might
have caused considerable embarrassment to rulers, and even have
stirred up disaffection among the ruled.
"For some centuries all went well. But at last a time came when
the rulers imagined themselves safe and allowed themselves to
listen to the sceptical scholars of China. Some of these sceptics
no doubt had no ulterior motives, but were actuated only by that
unbridled intellectual curiosity which had done so much to bring
* See the swan-song of Menelaus S. Bloggs (above).
the previous era to destruction. Others, however and the.
the majority had a more subtle purpose. They saw no rt
why white men should have a monopoly of the sacred booi
They determined insidiously to deride these books, while sug
gesting that in their own language, of which the rulers were
ignorant, there were far more ancient sacred books, far more
unintelligible, and far more awe-inspiring. Gradually they softened
their masters and made scepticism fashionable among them. They
themselves, however, refrained from scepticism. Bound together
in the closest ties of esoteric dogma, they worked with patient
secrecy at the undermining of the imposing edifice of Prusso-
Slavic statecraft. On a given day, long predetermined in their inner
councils, they rose, destroying their rulers by means of a subtle
poison distilled from the volcanic vegetation of Krakatoa. Thus
was inaugurated the Sino-Javanese era, which immediately pre-
ceded our own happy age.
"Our own country, now great and glorious and immutably
secure, endured long ages of bitter suffering. During the last four
centuries of the Graeco-Judaean era the Red Man was massacred,
or outlawed, or reduced to the status of a slave. The insolent
White Man dominated throughout our great continent, from which
beneficent Nature had so long excluded him while the first Inca
empire flourished. For a moment it seemed as if the downfall of
these ruthless masters would bring liberation. The Prusso-Slavs
enlisted our support in overthrowing the Graeco-Judaean intruders,
and, in order to stimulate our efforts, they made great promises
of freedom. But when the victory had been won, their promises
were forgotten, and the brave Red Men, whose help had been so
necessary, found themselves no better off than before. Nor did the
Sino-Javanese era bring any amelioration of our lot. Only the
ancient traditions of the divine Incas of the distant past, and the
ruins from which their greatness could still be imagined, kept alive
in a small secret band the hope that the God of our ancestors
would yet return and give us that mastery of the world which
we had deserved through our virtues and our suffering.
"The Sino-Javanese, like all rulers of eras before our own, had
NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
aly allowed themselves to be seduced by the love of pleasure
soft living. The arduous peaks and scarcely accessible valleys
our divine land did not attract them. They lived in palaces in the
plains, surrounded by every luxury, dressed in soft silks, and
reclining upon exquisitely-fashioned couches, served though I
blush to report it by slaves of our own race, slaves who, since
they had no share in the luxury, had also no share in the effeminacy
of their masters. It was at this epoch, just one thousand years ago,
that the divine Zahatopolk appeared. There were, at first, some
who maintained that He was a mere man; but that we know was
false. He appeared out of the sky, and landed upon the summit of
Cotopaxi. Many thousands of our race, warned by an oracle, saw
His descent. From that sacred mountain, He deigned to come
down amongst His worshippers, who beheld at once in His features
the likeness of their glorious God who had received their homage
before the coming of the infamous destroyer Pisarro. A divine
enthusiasm inspired in all a miraculous unanimity. They exter-
minated the Chinese sybarites, whom they took unawares. In the
great wars that followed, the divine Zahatopolk led them to victory
by the help of the deadly fungus of Cotopaxi, whose properties
had been unknown until He revealed them to His worshippers.
For thirty years He wrought among them, first in war and then,
after universal victory, in the even more difficult arts of peace.
The institutions under which we live we owe to Him. The Book
of Sacred Law, whatever accretions subsequent ages may have
brought, remains the basis of our policy. And woe to him who
should suggest any smallest departure from that celestial revelation !"
The regime inaugurated by the divine Zahatopolk took some
time to become firmly established, but so solid and statesmanlike
had been His principles that no radical new departures had been
needed during the thousand years since His advent. All previous
empires so Zahatopolk taught had been brought to an end by
softness softness in living, softness in feeling, and softness in
thinking. This His followers must avoid, and in order to avoid it
certain rigid and inflexible rules must be accepted without ques-
tioning and enforced without mercy.
The first thing that the God bade His worshippers always
remember was the superiority of Red Men to men of different pig-
mentation, and among Red Men the overlordship of the Peruvians,
while recognizing the Mexicans as next in merit. It was permissible,
and even laudable, to praise the wisdom of the ancient Maya,
before the white abomination had begun to pollute the Western
hemisphere, but the palm in antique glory was reserved for the
Incas. The slopes of Cotopaxi yielded a poisonous microscopic
fungus to which pure-blooded Peruvian Indians were immune,
but which spread contagious death among other populations.
After some experience of the devastation that this plague could
cause, the rest of the world submitted to Inca domination. And in
the course of centuries rebellion had become almost unthinkable.
The virility of the ruling race was kept intact by many wise
regulations. No physical luxury was permitted them. They slept
on hard beds with wooden pillows. They dressed in clothes made
of leather; one suit was expected to suffice for either a man or a
woman from the time of being full-grown until death. Cold baths
were enforced by law even in frosty weather and among mountain
snows. Food, though wholesome and sufficient, was always plain,
except at the annual feast of the Epiphany. Every day every
Peruvian must take sufficient physical exercise to insure complete
fitness. Alcohol and tobacco were forbidden to the ruling race,
though permitted to their subjects. The divine Zahatopolk revealed,
what had not previously been known, that the eating of peas is an
abomination which produces a loathsome pollution. Any Peruvian
who ate peas, even if no other nourishment was available, was
put to death, and those who had witnessed the dreadful deed were
subjected to a long and painful process of purification. This
j6 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
prohibition also applied only to Peruvians; others were already
polluted in their blood, and no abstinence could cleanse them.
The hardening process began in childhood, especially where
boys were concerned. The hours at school were divided between
lessons, gymnastics, and rough fiercely competitive games. No
boy was allowed to say that he was tired, or cold, or hungry; if
he did, he was despised as a weakling, and had to endure not only
the contempt of the authorities, but the well-merited ill-treatment
inflicted by the other boys. Those who had any physical weakness
died of this regimen, but it was held that it would have been useless
to keep them alive. They died despised and unregretted, and if
their parents mourned them, they had to do so in secret, for fear of
sharing the obloquy of their sons.
The severities in the education of girls were somewhat different,
since it was held that muscular development is no help in child-
bearing. Girls were never permitted the slightest gratification of
vanity, nor was any display of emotion tolerated, with the one
exception of religious exaltation and devotion to the Inca. Absolute
obedience was exacted, often in purposely painful ways. A very
few, however, who showed some marked ability of a sort con-
sidered usually masculine, were allowed some freedom and some
initiative, though only in such ways as were conventionally
Women, except those few who had been classified in youth as
unusually gifted, were confined to domestic duties. They were not
considered the equals of men, since they were not so useful in
battle. It is true that, after the first years, battles did not occur,
but that was only because the Peruvians were known to be in-
vincible. Never must they forget so Zahatopolk had taught
that only by superior strength could they maintain their empire,
and that a false sense of security had brought disaster to every
previous Master Race. Women, therefore, must remain subordinate,
and husbands must practise in the home those habits of command
which they would need in the world.
The strictest monogamy was rigidly observed. Neither men nor
women were allowed to stray from the path of virtue. It was not
only illicit love, but all love, that was frowned on. Marriages
were arranged by parents, or, in the case of orphans, by the priests.
For either party to object was unheard of; the ends of life were
not pleasure, but duty to the State and to the Holy Zahatopolk.
In the very rare cases of subsequent infidelity, the culprit was
degraded, and compelled to live abroad as a member of some non-
Zahatopolk taught that Peruvians must remain a proud governing
aristocracy. Their numbers must not increase so fast that many of
them would be poor, nor must they be unable to live on the produce
of Peru, for power, not wealth, was what they should seek in their
dealings with the outside world. Their divine Lawgiver, therefore,
decreed that when a married couple had already had three children,
any further children born to them should be reverently eaten
within a month of birth, both to prove that the parents were
innocent of any intention to cause a food shortage, and as a symbol
of submission to Zahatopolk as the God of Fertility. There had at
one time been a short-lived heretical sect which, misled by a
weak-kneed humanitarianism, maintained that birth control was
preferable to eating surplus children. But the leading divine pointed
out that birth control is a sin against God's gift of life, whereas
eating a child only makes its flesh a partaker in the life of the
parents from whom the child's life has come, and with which it
always remains mystically one. Accordingly, the eating of one's
child is a deeply religious act, bodying forth in a material form the
eternal continuity of the stream of life. And as such this act came
to be universally accepted.
Although all Peruvians formed an aristocracy in relation to
lesser breeds, there was also an aristocracy among Peruvians. It
was an aristocracy partly of birth, partly of ability. Any boy or
girl of really outstanding talent could be admitted to its ranks, but
most of its members were descendants of the captains who had
led the forces of Zahatopolk to victory in His great wars of libera-
tion and conquest. The priesthood, who were very powerful,
were all chosen from the aristocracy. Aristocrats had in some
respects more freedom than other people: for example, they
j8 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
might without censure have intercourse with the wives of plebeians,
and they were partially exempt from the sumptuary laws regarding
dress and diet.
Religion, to a very considerable extent, followed the pattern of
ancient Peru and Mexico. Zahatopolk was in some sense identified
with the sun, and it was His divine rays that caused the crops to
grow. There was also a Goddess, representing the moon, though
She was less prominent in the cult. She had, however, one important
part to play in the Zahatopolkian year. At the first new moon
after the winter solstice, at the moment when both sun and moon
seemed in danger of losing their several virtues, both were magically
revivified by a solemn and ancient rite. For a brief time Zahatopolk,
as the Sun God, became incarnate in the reigning Inca, while the
Moon Goddess became incarnate in a virgin whose identity was
revealed to the priests by means of certain sacred insignia. Sun
and moon were brought together in order to give each other new
life. The chosen virgin was solemnly led to the Inca by the priests,
and by his union with her the sun recovered strength. In order that
the union might be completed as fully as possible, the Inca next
morning reverently consumed the lady, who could no longer serve
the purpose for which virginity was essential. This most sacred
rite, performed just after the winter solstice, was the occasion for
the great public holiday of the Epiphany, when, for a moment,
much of the habitual frugality was relaxed.
The Inca's annual union with the Virgin of the Year was, of
course, only for religious purposes. He had a wife, whose oldest
son would succeed him. It was not as himself, but as temporarily
Zahatopolk, that he had intercourse with the lady who, while the
rite lasted, was honoured as the Bride of Zahatopolk. To be the
Chosen One was the greatest honour possible for a woman, and
families which had enjoyed this honour were exalted by it. The
Bride herself invariably rejoiced in spite of the death that awaited
her. The loveliest lyric poetry known consisted of a paean of
triumph in stiff archaic ritual language celebrating the joy of the
Bride at the thought of being absorbed into the divine stomach.
Once, during the first century of the regime, a dreadful impiety
had shaken Authority to its foundations. A man who had been
acknowledged as the Inca fell so deeply in love with the Bride of
Zahatopolk that he impiously refrained from killing and eating
her, but kept her alive and visited her in secret. The consequences
were such as might have been expected. The sun failed to recover,
rising every morning as late as at the winter solstice. The supposed
Inca became prematurely old, losing both hair and teeth. There
was bewilderment and despair, combined with dark suspicions.
At the festival of the spring equinox, which was held at the usual
time in spite of the sun's failure to rise when it should, lightning
from a clear sky struck the supposed Inca dead. It was subse-
quently discovered that his mother had impiously committed
adultery, and that he had therefore no right to the throne. Before
this incident some scepticism had lingered among intellectuals,
but after it, naturally, there was none.
The sacred land of Peru included the territories which in the
Spanish era had been known as Ecuador and Chile. Throughout
this region, as soon as the liberation was completed, Zahatopolk
decreed measures to secure the purity of Indian blood. Whites and
Negroes were exterminated and all Mestizos were sterilized. Some,
however, in whom the taint of foreign blood was not evident,
escaped, so that, from time to time, children with white or Negro
traits were born. All new-born children were examined by State
physicians, and if any such taint was discovered, the parents had
to eat the child and submit to sterilization. While the regime was
still new, this severity was apt to cause disaffection. All such
parents therefore remained suspect and were carefully watched by
the secret police. After about two hundred years of this process
the taint of foreign blood disappeared and only pure Indians were
to be found throughout the length and breadth of the Holy Land.
Outside Peru the official policy was different. Mexicans were
treated almost as equals. They were allowed in the army and in
foreign government posts, except the very highest, provided their
blood was pure. They were also allowed higher education and
were even admitted to the University of Cuzco. Other Indians had
lesser privileges, and it was admitted that their merit might be
80 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
such as to deserve recognition. But whites, yellows, browns and
blacks were treated as inferior species, and were deliberately kept
in a state of degradation. There was, it is true, a difference. The
blacks, who had never yet achieved world empire, were despised
but not feared. The whites and yellows, since they had held world
empire, were feared, and the contempt that was inculcated towards
them had to be carefully fostered.
Education was denied to all who were not Indian. All, without
distinction, were condemned to ten hours a day of manual work.
While the land of Peru preserved an ancient rustic simplicity and
carefully avoided all damage to natural beauty, the rest of the
world was filled with everything most up-to-date in the way of
industrialism. Factories, mines, vast slag-heaps, filthy slums, smoke
and grime were thought suitable to the scum of foreign lands.
Peruvians believed, and all the world was taught, that while
Peruvians were the children of the sun, other races were foetidly
generated from slime. All that Zahatopolk had taught about the
softening influence of pleasure was used to degrade the non-Indian
populations. When their ten hours of work were finished, every
opportunity was put in their way for alcoholic excess and the
stupefying effect of opium. Marriage was not recognized and uni-
versal promiscuity was encouraged. Physicians were forbidden to
combat the resulting spread of venereal disease. Any Peruvian who
was found guilty of sexual intercourse with a member of an inferior
race was instantly put to death. Peruvian guards, who were
necessary to keep the bestial population in order, were very care-
fully protected against degradation by their horrible surroundings.
They were encouraged to see natives eating peas, and this nauseous
spectacle stimulated their patriotism in the highest degree. The
non-Indian population of the world diminished slowly as a result
of disease and excess. Certain visionaries foresaw in a more or less
distant future a world purged of all but Red Men, and imagined
in that future an equality of all men which could not, as things
were, be tolerated. Such Utopian visions were, however, thought
risky, and those who indulged in them were viewed with a certain
suspicion. The governors of foreign countries were very carefully
selected, since experience had shown that those who had in their
nature any element of instability were liable to nervous disorders
of various sorts. Some practised needless cruelties towards the
natives; others, more gravely disordered, attempted to make
friends with them and treated them as in some degree equals.
There were even a few instances of governors who believed in the
brotherhood of man and unearthed ancient documents from the
Graeco-Judaean epoch which preached this outlandish doctrine.
These men had to be dealt with very severely, and the School of
Indoctrination at Cuzco had to inaugurate courses designed to
guard against this danger. As time went on, however, the danger
grew less, since the measures adopted by the Government succeeded
in making the natives progressively more and more degraded and
more and more purely animal. After some centuries the Peruvian
supremacy came to seem unshakable.
The lectures of Professor Driuzdustades continued throughout
an academic year and gave rise to earnest discussions between
Thomas and Diotima, in which her friend Freia had a minor part.
Diotima, partly from the lectures and partly from the reading of
ancient history, began to feel perplexities which surprised and
disquieted her. She did not feel quite sure that cannibalism was
either necessary or desirable. Professor Driuzdustades had explained
that the identification of the Bride with the moon was not to be
taken literally, but was only a beautiful allegory. One morning
the terrible thought came to Diotima: "Why, if the union is only
allegorical, cannot the eating also be so? Could not a ginger-
bread puppet be substituted for the living Bride?" The blasphemous
character of this thought made her go cold all over. She shivered
82 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
and turned pale. Thomas, who was present, inquired anxiously
what was the matter. But the thought had been fugitive, and she
felt it unwise to reveal it. Other doubts, also, assailed her. In the
university library she found an old dusty volume that had obviously
remained undisturbed for a very long time. It contained the most
noteworthy speculations of the ages of darkness before the coming
of the Holy Zahatopolk. She could not resist the thrill of their
enormous antiquity, for some antedated even the beginning of the
Graeco-Judaean synthesis. In some of these writings she found a
doctrine to the effect that a man's sympathies should not be con-
fined to his own race, but should extend to the whole human species.
She discovered also that long ago men who had not been red had
thought thoughts and said words that seemed to her at least as
wise and at least as profound as any that had been produced by
the Zahatopolkian era. She began to wonder whether the present
bestiality of white, yellow, and brown men was really, as she had
been taught, due to congenital inferiority or might not, rather,
have been induced by the institutions which Peruvian statecraft
had established. Of these doubts she said little, but something of
them showed through her guarded utterances.
Thomas was troubled by her state of mind. His admiration for
her was such that every word falling from her lips had weight with
him, and, however she might' alarm him, he could not dismiss her
vaguely adumbrated doubts as he would those of any other fellow-
student. Although he was troubled, his faith survived, for it seemed
to him that without the hard framework of Zahatopolkian orthodoxy
society would dissolve and there would be universal chaos. In
the war of all against all which he imagined, he feared to see the
loss of all that is good in civilization. What would become of science
and art? What would become of ordered family life? What safe-
guard would remain against vast destruction in world-wide combats
of rival hordes ? All these horrors, so it seemed to him, were pre-
vented only by the monumental stability of the traditional ortho-
doxy. Let doubt once penetrate through even the smallest chink
and the whole system would dissolve. A deep cultural night would
spread over the globe and men everywhere would become as
degraded as the most degraded of present subject populations.
Such thoughts made him shudder , whenever Diotima, through
some momentary carelessness, allowed her new tentative opinions
"O Diotima," he would say, "beware! You are embarked upon
a perilous mental journey, a journey leading only to a dark and
measureless abyss in which, if you do not retrace your steps, you
will be engulfed. I do not wish to see you pursuing this path alone,
but much as I love you I cannot pursue it with you."
Freia, who was sometimes present during these discussions, was
unable to appreciate their gravity. Diotima, whom she had known
since childhood, was endeared to her by many common memories.
Thomas, as the brilliant son of a brilliant father, destined as every-
body hoped to carry on the age-old tradition of Zahatopolkian
culture, inevitably commanded the respect of one to whom every-
thing established was sacred. She was, however, less perturbed
than she should have been, as she spent most of her time in a
dream-like daze of mystic exaltation, and whatever did not fit with
this mood seemed to her to be due to some misapprehension.
When Diotima said anything that seemed subversive, Freia would
smile gently and say, "of course, my dear, you don't really mean
that!" And Diotima, who thought it neither possible nor desirable
to disturb Freia's beliefs, would seemingly acquiesce as though she
had been engaged in mere intellectual play.
Diotima's family belonged to the highest and most ancient
aristocracy of Peru. In the War of Liberation their ancestor had
commanded one of the largest of Zahatopolk's armies, and through-
out the subsequent centuries they had worthily upheld the estab-
lished order. Several times the Bride of the Sun had belonged to
their family. The portraits of these Brides, perpetually wreathed in
ever-fresh myrtle, occupied the place of honour in the dining hall
of the family. Their imposing house was in the best quarter of
Cuzco and had a lovely garden which filled the steep hillside
with the colour and scent of many flowers. Freia's family, though
not quite so august, were also aristocratic. Thomas, on the other
hand, owed his admission to these exalted circles to the intellect
84 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
and public service of his distinguished father. Some slight con-
descension was perhaps natural in the attitude of ancient families
towards such as he. But it was recognized by the Government that
the stability of the regime required the continual services of the
best available brains, and policy indicated as complete as possible
a social acceptance of those who, by this means, had risen in the
social scale. It was not, therefore, surprising that, when Diotima
mentioned to her parents her two friends, Freia and Thomas,
they agreed that she should invite both of them to be inspected and
judged by the shrewd standards which ages of supremacy had
developed. Her parents, though she seldom spoke to them of her
secret thoughts, had divined in her an intellectual recklessness that
they deeply deplored. She seemed to have the bad habit of letting
the argument determine her conclusion, instead of first deciding
on the conclusion and then making the argument fit. There was in
this, they felt, something anarchic and dangerous. But, although
they were worried by her wild speculations (which were, in fact,
far wilder than they knew), they thought them merely the
exuberance of youthful high spirits which a little experience of the
real world would subdue. They rejoiced in her friendship with
Freia, to whose exemplary piety many common friends had borne
witness. Sometimes they wistfully regretted that their daughter did
not more resemble this untroubling saint. The testimonials of
teachers to Diotima's great abilities and zeal in study did something
to allay their fears. Time, they felt, would show her that intellect
is not everything, and would give her that moral earnestness in
which for the moment she seemed lacking. Thomas, vouched for
by his father's great reputation and his own excellent record, was
just such a friend as they could have wished for their daughter.
Their only hesitation in his regard was due to his reputation for
brilliant intellect, since it was not, in their opinion, intellect that
needed developing in their daughter. But from all that they could
learn about Thomas, intellect had never yet led him astray any
more than it had his father, and there was every reason to hope
that he would become as valuable to the stability of the social
order as his distinguished parent. Such were the considerations
which led Diotima's mother to invite Thomas and Freia to her
Diotima's mother, as a hostess, was gracious and anxious to set
her guests at their ease, although she could not divest herself of a
grand manner which at first they found somewhat intimidating.
Her language was always correct, her sentiments always impeccable.
No looseness of grammar or vocabulary would be overlooked.
No sentiment departing even slightly from the correct would
escape at least the censure of a raised eyebrow. Diotima paid but
little respect to her mother's social taboos. Her language was
adventurous; some of her words were too erudite, others had a
tincture of slang. She could not resist wit that was at times irreverent,
and on occasion would even make fun of eminent men who were
her father's friends.
"My dear," said her mother, "you will never get a husband if
you use such inelegant expressions and show such a lack of proper
respect to your elders." Seeing that Diotima obviously thought
well of Thomas, and hoping that he might exert a restraining
influence upon her over-bold daughter, she turned to him and
said, "I am sure Professor Driuzdustades would not approve,
would he, Thomas ?"
At this, Thomas was intolerably embarrassed. Secretly he agreed
with his hostess, but loyalty would not permit him to desert Diotima.
However, Freia came to the rescue. She went into raptures about
the beauty of the place.
"What happiness must be yours," she said, "to sit in this
exquisite garden viewing the eternal snows and conscious that our
Holy Realm is as eternal and as sublime as those lofty peaks !"
Diotima's mother shared these sentiments, but was not quite
sure that it was compatible with good taste to express them; for,
although enthusiasm is all very well in its place, it must always
be kept within the limit of manners and decorum. While she was
hesitating for a moment as to the proper response to Freia's
rhapsody, Diotima rushed in:
"Come, come, Freia," she said, "the peaks are not eternal. We
know from geology that they were thrust up by a cataclysm, and
86 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
some day another cataclysm will bring them tumbling down. Are
you not afraid there may be a tinge of blasphemy in comparing the
Zahatopolkian regime to these top-heavy lumps?"
This remark produced a pained silence which Thomas endeav-
oured to smooth over, saying, "Oh, of course Diotima is only
teasing. I am afraid that sometimes her sense of humour runs
away with her."
"Ah well," said her mother, "I suppose we mustn't be too hard
upon her. I can remember how, in earlier years, her dear father,
who is now as grave as I could wish, sometimes pained me by
flippancy about eminent men of the previous generation. She will
learn as we all have to."
On this soothing note the party broke up.
Doubt, having once found a lodging in Diotima's thoughts, was
nourished by various discoveries. The ancient volume which she
had found gave her a taste for research in parts of the university
library that were too dusy and archaic to be commonly visited.
In one of these she found a contemporary account of the wicked
Inca who had avoided the duty of eating the Sacred Bride. She found
that at the time he had many partisans who maintained that the
failure of the sun to recover vigour was only apparent. They
maintained that the priests caused all public clocks to lose by day
and gain by night, thereby making it seem that the days were
getting no longer and the nights no shorter. They maintained also
that the Inca's loss of hair and teeth was due to a slow poison, and
that he was killed, not by lightning, but by a flash between two
highly-charged electric poles. His successor naturally opposed
this sect, and it was put down with great ruthlessness. But Diotima
observed that only persecution, not argument, was employed
Another blow to her tottering faith was administered unwittingly
by an uncle of hers who held a high position in the Inca's household.
This man was at one time very ill and, in delirium, said many
things which those who heard them regarded as insane ravings.
To Diotima, however, whose occasional duty it was to nurse him,
there seemed to be truth in his delirious fantasies.
"Ha, ha," he would laugh, "people imagine that it is the priests
who choose the Sacred Bride. How pained they would be if
they knew she is chosen by the Court eunuchs as the girl best
qualified to serve the Inca's lusts!"
The Court eunuchs were a body of men whose only publicly
acknowledged function was to sing ancient hymns to the sun in
the magnificent temple which formed the centre of Zahatopolkian
religion. Their ethereal and exquisite voices filled all hearers with
what they believed to be the Divine Spirit. While they listened
their hearts were lifted up to Heaven, and some degree of mystic
unity with the Divinity seemed to come within the reach of all
reverent hearers. It was appalling to think of these men as panders
to a grossness that wore a deceitful mask of religion. And yet that
was what her uncle's disordered ravings compelled Diotima to think.
These two revelations of pious fraud, one long ago, the other
repeated year by year down to the present day, produced in
Diotima a profound revulsion of which, however, for the present,
she allowed little to appear. In her conversations with Thomas she
kept her most dangerous thoughts to herself, hoping to lead him
on gently and bring him little by little to her way of thinking.
Any premature shock, she knew, would repel him. Freia, in spite
of her exquisite beauty, was too insipid and too unintellectual to
excite Thomas's deeper feelings. Diotima, on the other hand, he
found intoxicating, almost madly stimulating, but at the same time
terrifying. He felt with her the exhilaration that comes to a climber
on a dangerous glittering ice-slope. He could not keep away, he
could not acquiesce, and he could not wholly reject.
One day when the trio were sitting by a mountain stream in deep
discussion, Diotima saw peering at them from behind the trees
88 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
two men whom, by their uniform, she knew to be court eunuchs.
One of them was pointing at Freia and the other was gravely
nodding his head. Her companions had not perceived this scene, of
which, in view of her uncle's revelation, the significance was
obvious. She turned pale, and in a subdued voice said, "Let us
return into the city." "What is the matter?" asked the others.
When they had reached a safe distance she explained that it had come
to her knowledge that Freia would be the next Bride of Zahatopolk.
"But how can you know?" they both asked. "That," she replied,
"is something that I cannot now explain. But you will find that I am
Very soon afterwards, the choice of Freia was made public.
Freia was overwhelmed with humble ecstasy, and experienced all
those emotions which in the days of the Graeco-Judaean synthesis
had been attributed to the Madonna at the Annunciation. Diotima
was profoundly shocked, and not prevented by religious faith from
feeling that her life-long friend was to suffer a dreadful fate.
Thomas was of course aware that Diotima's emotions were not
such as the orthodoxy would demand. He could not think her right
in this, but he could not bear the pain of thinking her wrong.
Freia's parents, as was to be expected, were overjoyed that this
great honour should come to their family. Diotima's mother
congratulated her on being a friend of Freia, and boasted of the
friendship to all her visitors. Freia, a few days after the announce-
ment, was removed from profane contacts and subjected to the long
process of purification and sanctification that preceded her
apotheosis. Diotima mourned her. Thomas tried, ineffectually, to
rejoice in the honour done to her. Diotima, having still hopes of
his complete conversion, took pains that their disagreements should
never lead to a rupture. In this state of doubt and suspense things
remained between them throughout the months of Freia's pre-
Freia, under the influence of the regimen slowly perfected
throughout the centuries by the sacred eunuchs, became gradually
more and more absorbed by mystic ecstasy. She was treated by
the ministrant eunuchs as a divine being. Ancient and beautiful
robes, worn only by Brides of Zahatopolk, were brought forth for
her adornment. Every morning precisely at sunrise she was taken
to bathe in a Sacred Stream which was forbidden on pain of death
to all except the Brides of Zahatopolk. In a jewelled chapel of which
the walls glittered with mosaics depicting the earthly life of Zahato-
polk, she listened to the sacred chants that the eunuchs sang with
voices of unearthly purity. She was nourished upon special food
different from that of mere men and women. She was given books
of ancient poetry celebrating the transports of the moon in the
embraces of the sun, and pictures of Zahatopolk and His Bride in
a holy and passionate embrace. In a world of ancient legend and
ritual the memories of her previous daily life grew dim. She moved
and breathed as if in a dream. And it seemed to her that day by day
the soul of the Goddess more and more took possession of her.
At length the supreme night arrived. Dressed in a robe of
brilliant blue adorned with innumerable stars, and carrying in her
hand a flaming torch, she slowly descended the Sacred Stairs that
led towards the waiting Inca. And as she descended, she sang a
chant of immense antiquity and almost unbearable beauty. With the
last note she reached the end of the stairs, and saw before her the
long-awaited figure of the Inca.
The Inca, a man with thick lips, bulbous nose and pig's eyes
almost buried in fat, nevertheless appeared to her as a Divine Being
and a worthy embodiment of Zahatopolk. He took hold of her
roughly, saying, "Now then, off with that robe. Mustn't keep me
waiting all night." She felt that this is how a God should behave,
and she welcomed the opportunity to humble herself before Him.
When the rite had been performed, He fell asleep and snored, while
she reverently contemplated His sleeping form. In the middle of the
night the priests very quietly opened a secret door and beckoned
to her. Slowly, ecstatically, she followed them to her death.
In due course the Inca woke up and descended to his breakfast.
"Well, at any rate," he murmured with his first mouthful, "they've
cooked her rather well this year."
<)0 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
After Freia had been led away to deification and death, Diotima's
mood changed. She had been full of gaiety and wit. She had loved
intellectual play, and would follow out an argument with more
regard for logic than for social implications. Now, however, under
the impact of the loss of Freia, she became oppressed with the
social consequences of false beliefs. Not a word of the official
theology could she any longer accept. It became clear to her that
Zahatopolk had been a mere man, and that his doctrine of Peruvian
supremacy was nothing but a very human embodiment of national
vanity. The whole of the rites connected with the winter solstice
came to seem to her at once absurd and cruel. Freia, she felt, had
been sacrificed not to a God, but to the lusts of a brute. But rebellion
against so firmly rooted a system would be no Hght matter, and
for a time she confined herself to inward debate. As rebellion
became more complete in her thoughts, she increasingly suppressed
its outward manifestations. Thomas, who had dreaded her rebel-
liousness, hoped that it was subsiding. When he argued with her
against those first beginnings of doubt which she had expressed
to him at an earlier stage, she did not rebut his arguments, and he
fancied that he had convinced her. She saw that he loved her, and
she could have loved him in return but for a growing sense of
dedication to a task of appalling difficulty. This feeling set her apart
and made it impossible for her to yield whole-heartedly to any
passion for a merely human object. Thomas sensed her aloofness
and suffered from it. At length a day came when she decided that
she could no longer hide from him the thoughts which dominated
her every waking moment.
Early one morning Thomas and Diotima walked together in a
deep Andean valley. The warm beauty of a profusion of spring
flowers was at their feet. Above them, reaching to incredible
heights, were snowy peaks thrusting almost insolently into the deep
blue of the upper sky. Most parts of the valley were still in shade,
but here and there rays of dazzling sunshine penetrated between the
shadows of the mountains. The chiselled calm of Diotima's perfect
features seemed to Thomas a synthesis of the warm beauty below
and the cold sublimity above. The scene and the woman combined
to produce in him a feeling of almost more than human ecstasy.
Love burned in him like a fire, but was kept in check by something
more than love awe and wonder and reverence and a realization
of what it is possible for a human being to be. No ordinary words
of love seemed adequate. And for a time he walked in quivering
silence. At last he turned to her and said: "At this moment I am
beginning to know how life should be lived."
"Yes," she said, "it should be soft and lovely like the flowers,
it should be immovable and clear like the peaks, and it should be
immeasurable and profound like the sky. It is possible for life to
be lived so. But not amid such ugliness and horror as reigns in our
"Ugliness and horror!" he exclaimed. "What do you mean?"
"There is ugliness," she said, "when a mere human being,
because he is thought to be a God, is allowed to commit
At these words Thomas trembled and shrank away, "A mere
human being?" he queried. "You cannot mean the divine
"I do," she said, "he is not divine. The myth that exalts him
has been created by fear: fear of death, fear of the blows of fate,
fear of the powers of nature, and fear of the tyranny of man. From
these peaks above us swift death from time to time rolls into the
valleys beneath. The powers that rule in the peaks are felt to be
cruel, and it is thought that only a sympathetic cruelty can appease
their terrible implacability. But all fear is ignoble, and the myths
that it generates are ignoble, and the men whom the myths exalt
are ignoble. Zahatopolk is no God, but a gross man, in many ways
lower than the beasts. The rite in which Freia was sacrificed is not
of divine origin. Nothing is of divine origin. The gods are shadows
of our fears upon the opacity of the night. They embody the
$2 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
abasement of man before the forces that can destroy him physically.
They embody the slavery to time, which cannot value the eternal
moment if in the temporal order it is but a moment. I will not
yield to this prostration. While I live I will stand upright like the
mountains. If disaster comes, as no doubt it will, it can be only
outward disaster. The citidal of my belief in what can be will
While she spoke, an appalling conflict seemed to tear him
asunder. One part, the part that but a moment before had seemed
one with her in a transcendent unity, was fired by her words and
longed to agree. But another part, just as strong if not stronger,
stood out against her. All that he had been taught, all that he knew
of the society in which they lived, all the feelings of awe and rever-
ence which had been instilled into him since infancy, rose in
opposition, and the cold Godless world which she portrayed filled
him with cosmic terror. Better, he felt, a God who might be cruel,
but who at least was not utterly alien, since he experienced passions
like our own; better such a God than a vast, cold, lifeless universe,
unthinkingly generating and sweeping away, caring nothing for
human beings, whom it had produced without intention and would
destroy without compunction. This cosmic terror was for the time
being stronger even than his love. Pale and trembling, he turned
towards her and said: "No. I cannot accept your world, I cannot
live with your thoughts. I cannot keep alive the flickering flame
of human warmth amid such a chill blast of immeasurable inhu-
manity. If it is to be your task to destroy the faith of my fathers,
we must go our separate ways."
They walked on slowly and in silence until they came to the
one house that the valley contained. There they found the Inca's
eunuchs in waiting. "You have been chosen," they said to Diotima,
and bore her off. Thomas gazed after her until she was lost to sight.
But he said no word and made no movement.
The choice of Diotima as the Bride of the Year was communi-
cated officially to her parents, and also to Professor Driuzdustades
to explain her absence from his classes. Her parents, following
immemorial custom, gave a great party to celebrate the honour
done to their daughter. All the aristocracy of Cuzco came with
wedding gifts and congratulatory speeches. Her mother accepted
the gifts and speeches with a courteous pretence of humility. Her
father, upright and rather portly, preserved a soldierly demeanour
in which satisfaction was half-concealed by decorum. The party
was an immense social success, and Diotima's family was felt to
have become even more exalted than before.
The Professor also felt that he enjoyed some reflection of
Diotima's glory. Doubtless the Moon Goddess had observed that
under his influence Diotima had become worthy to be the vehicle
of incarnation. Professor Driuzdustades congratulated his son
upon his friendship with the exalted lady, but was somewhat
disquieted to observe that Thomas did not seem as elated as the
occasion warranted. At first, however, he consoled himself with the
thought that, however shocking to strictly correct sentiment, some
regret in die loss of Diotima's companionship might be excused in
one so young as Thomas.
But within a few days dreadful rumours began to circulate. It
was whispered that Diotima was not accepting the honour in the
right spirit, that she was refusing to do her part in the purificatory
ceremonies, that she was denying any awareness of the Moon
Goddess entering her body, that she was speaking disrespectfully
of the Inca, and even Oh depth of infamy ! maintaining that the
sun and moon would get on just as well if the rites of the Epiphany
were not performed.
These rumours, alas, were but too well founded. Priests and
eunuchs alike were filled with consternation. Nothing even faintly
analogous had happened since that long ago time when the False
Inca had refused to eat the Bride. In their perplexity they decided
to temporize. They would not let the Inca know of Diotima's
recalcitrance, but they would bring all possible pressure to bear
upon her in the hope that her resolution might be broken and she
might consent to conform. With this end in view, they arranged
a series of interviews with those whom they thought most likely
to convince her.
The first of these interviews was with her mother. Her mother
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had been proud and somewhat imperious, little given to the display
of emotion, but always self-contained and self-controlled. Now all
this was changed. She felt utterly humiliated. She could not face
the world. She dared not see her friends for fear of their criticism
or what would be even worse their commiseration. She found
her daughter in a bare cell, dressed in a penitential garb, and kept
on a diet of bread and water. Convulsed with sobs and with tears
coursing down her cheeks, she stammered out incoherent words
of sorrow and reproof.
"O Diotima," she said, "how can you inflict upon your father
and mother this dreadful depth of degradation? Have you no
memory of the years of your innocent childhood, when by my care
you grew in wisdom and stature and daily raised higher our hopes
for your future? Have you no feeling for the proud family which
for many centuries has borne the banner of history in this glorious
land? Can you inflict upon those who have loved you the most
dreadful fate that can befall a human being I mean the shame
that is being brought upon us by a shameless daughter? O Diotima,
I cannot bring myself to believe it. Say that it is but an evil dream
and that my love may go out to you as heretofore." At this point
sobs choked her utterance and she could say no more.
Throughout her mother's broken words Diotima remained
unmoved. Proud and apparently cold, she replied:
"Mother, something is involved which is greater than parental
affection, greater than family pride, greater even than this realm
which has stood for a thousand years. For this proud realm, though
I know that you cannot recognize the fact, is built upon lies and
cruelties and abominations. To these I cannot be a party. If I seem
unmoved by your tears, it is not from coldness. It is because I
burn with another and a greater fire than any that you can imagine.
You cannot either understand or approve, and I beg you to forget
that you were ever afflicted with such a daughter."
Slowly, in utter despair, her mother turned away and left
Diotima in solitude.
Her mother having failed, her father, next day, was admitted to
her cell. His line was somewhat different from her mother's.
"Come, come," he said, "why are you being such an obstinate
young fool ? I see that you are upset by having learnt too soon and
too quickly things which we who live about the Court have long
known and accepted. You don't suppose, do you, that sensible men
believe all that palaver about the sun and moon? Or imagine that
the Inca, whom we all know and despise, becomes divine once a
year by the calendar? We know perfectly well that no religious
motives inspire him during what is called the Holy Night: but we
do not make a hullabaloo about it as you threaten to do, for we
know that these beliefs, however groundless they may be, are
useful to the State. They cause the Government to be revered, and
enable us to preserve order at home and empire abroad. What do
you suppose would happen if the populace came to think as you do ?
There would be disorders in Peru; there would be insurrections
abroad; and very soon the whole fabric of civilized society would
be in tatters. Rash girl ! You refuse to be a sacrifice to the Inca, but
you have not thought that the true sacrifice is to Law and Order
and Social Stability, not to a gross prince. You prate of truth, but
how can truth preserve an empire? Has the Professor failed to
teach you that all empires, always, have been built upon useful
lies ? I am afraid you are an anarchist, and if you do not recant, you
can scarcely hope that the State will show you mercy."
"Father," she replied, "it is natural, I suppose, in view of our
family traditions, that the Peruvian State should be a God to you.
Some effort of imagination is needed to think of another order of
society than that in which you have lived all your life. And, Father,
I am afraid that imagination is not your strongest point. I see in
my thoughts a better world than that which our race has created:
a world containing more justice, more mercy, more love, and,
above all, more truth. Cataclysms and disorders there may be on
the road to this better world, but even they are to be preferred
to the dead rigidity of our public and private abominations."
At this her father became red with fury, and, exclaiming in a
loud voice, "Impertinent child, I leave you to your fate!" he
marched out into the sunshine.
The next to visit the obstinate prisoner was the Professor. He
$6 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
entered her cell with an air of suave and hypothetical benignity,
and addressed her in tones which masked authority by their
intended persuasiveness. "My poor girl," he said, "I am sorry to
see you here, and I cannot but think that some part of the blame
must be mine, for in the year during which you have listened to
my indoctrinating lectures I ought to have succeeded in conveying
to you a more just apprehension of social duty than is indicated by
your present predicament. But tell me, Diotima, at what points,
and for what reasons, do you dissent from the doctrines which it
has fallen to my unworthy self to endeavour to instil?"
"Well," she replied, "since you ask me, I will tell you. I don't
believe your facts, I don't believe your theories. I think your
conception of social utility intolerably narrow and your belief
in the unchangeability of dogma so wooden as to bring death to
intellect and feeling alike. I think your indifference to truth
revolting, and your subservience to the powers that be, toad-eating
and contemptible. Now, having cleared the air, I am willing to
hear what you have to say."
At these rude words the Professor flushed, and for a moment he
was tempted to retort with mere abuse, but that would have been
to betray the traditions of his order. Diotima had been blunt. She
had eschewed ambiguity and vagueness in a manner which he
could not too deeply deplore. She had been content to dwell in
those regions of mere fact which to the initiate are but the foothills
of the lofty peaks of wisdom. Restraining his annoyance with an
effort, he told himself that the girl was over- wrought and that the
diet of bread and water might well cause bad temper. The habits
of a lifetime of lecturing came to his aid, and he replied to her
diatribe in a manner truly admirable in view of his greatness and
"Diotima," he said, "there are some things that you do not seem
to know and that, even at this late hour, I must put before you with
all the power at my command. I will begin with what is at the
basis of all else : Do you deny the Godhead of the Holy Zahatopolk ?"
"I do," she replied. "We are taught that he descended from
Heaven in a miraculous manner. For my part I believe that he
descended in a helicopter from a plane hidden above the clouds.
We are told that he did not die, but ascended miraculously into
Heaven when his work on earth was ended. This, also, I do not
believe. I believe that a camarilla of his generals surrounded him
during his last illness and kept him from all contact with the outer
world. I believe that they threw his corpse into the crater of
Cotopaxi. Legends to this effect have been handed down secretly in
my family, whose ancestor was the ringleader in this proceeding.
All are sworn to secrecy and only the men are initiated. But
men have fevers, and fevers bring delirium, and in delirium even
the gravest secrets can be blabbed."
At this point the Professor saw that a lecture on Truth was
called for. "Granted, my dear girl," he said, "that on the mundane
level of sensible fact things were as you say, do you not realize
that there is a higher sense in which the orthodox doctrine of our
land conveys a truth more profound than any mere legend of
helicopters and military camarillas? What have helicopters to do
with Divinity? They are mere contrivances: ingenious, no doubt;
convenient, no doubt; but unworthy to hold a central place in the
fundamental doctrines of cosmogony. If, indeed, our Divine
Founder deigned to make use of some such mechanism, He did so,
no doubt, for a wise purpose which it is not for us to question.
And when you deny that He descended from Heaven, are you so
certain that you know where Heaven is ? Have you never learned
the great spiritual truth that Heaven is wherever there are heavenly
thoughts? And wherever Zahatopolk may have been, there, rest
assured, heavenly thoughts had a home. Of His death very similar
things may be said. What if His earthly integument became cold and
lifeless ? What if His disciples reverently restored it to that terres-
trial fire which of all things on this earth is nearest to the Divine
Fire that had enabled Him to instruct His disciples ? It was not the
earthly integument that was to be worshipped, for our God is to
be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth, and Spirit and Truth dwell
in the soul, not in the body. The rash words that you uttered
concerning the Most High God may have been in some gross
sense not out of harmony with material fact, but spiritually, as I
$8 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
have shown you, and in the only sense that concerns us as beings
partaking, however imperfectly, of the Divine Essence, they are
utterly false and to be contemned with all the force that our Holy
Religion can inspire/ '
"Professor," the girl replied, "what you say is of course very
impressive, but I have arrived at a view which I fear you may find
shocking. I think that there are facts and fictions, there is truth and
there are lies. I know that those who preach the doctrine of the
Golden Mean, of which I suspect you of being an adherent, con-
sider that one should observe the golden mean between truth and
falsehood, as you so admirably did in the speech to which I have
just listened. But, to my mind, facts are harsh and will not be
denied. I know that in a brutal orgy the sadistic Inca first enjoyed,
and then ate, my friend Freia. This is fact. And however you may
clothe the fact in a mantle of mist and myth, it will remain a fact,
and so long as you try to hide it from your gaze you will share its
vileness and it will pollute you."
"Come, come," said the Professor, "this is strong language, and
I cannot think that you have studied the philosophical theory of
truth as deeply as your academic duty demanded that you should.
Do you not know that the truth of a doctrine lies in its social
utility and its spiritual depth, not in some wretched vulgar accuracy
such as can be measured by a foot-rule in the hands of a clod ?
Measured by any true standard, how paltry are your feelings
concerning your friend Freia! How much more profound, how
much more consonant with the needs of the human race, was her
ecstasy in those moments of apotheosis ! Consider what, for her,
has been achieved. Through a few brief moments, some aspects of
which you, in your arrogance, find revolting, she has become one
with the Moon Goddess. In eternal calm and eternal beauty, what
was imperishable in her sails through the skies, exempt from the
sorrows and tribulations of this mortal life. And consider what
mankind owes to that majestic ritual in which her earthly life was
ended. Consider the poetry, the slow-moving music, the glorious
mosaics, and the Temple whose sublime and severe lines draw eye
and soul alike towards heaven. Would you have all this perish
from the earth? Would you have mankind reduced to a dusty,
book-keeping pedestrianism ? Would you have poetry and music
and architecture perish? Yet how could any of these survive without
the divine myth (I use the words in no derogatory sense) by which
they have been inspired?
"But if art and beauty mean nothing to you, what of the social
structure? What of law, what of morality, what of government?
Do you suppose that these could survive? Do you suppose that
men would abstain from murder, and theft, and even intercourse
with non-Peruvians, if they did not feel the eye of Zahatopolk
upon them? And do you not see that, since the true is what is
socially useful, the doctrines of our holy religion are true ? Renounce,
I beseech you, your self-willed pride; submit yourself to the
wisdom of the ages; and, by so doing, put an end to the torment
and shame that you are inflicting upon your parents, your teachers
and your friends."
"No!" exclaimed Diotima. "No! a thousand times no! This
higher truth of which you speak is to me only higher humbug.
This social utility of which you make so much is only the preser-
vation of unjust privilege. This marvellous morality of which you
prate justifies the oppression and degradation of the great majority
of the human race. My eyes are opened, and not all your tortuous
words can induce me to close them again."
The Professor, incensed at last, exclaimed: "Then perish in your
stiff-necked arrogance, wretched apostate! I leave you to the fate
that you have so richly deserved." And with that he left her.
Only one possibility of bringing Diotima to repentance remained.
It was known that Thomas had loved her, and it was hoped that
she had loved Thomas. Perhaps love would effect what authority
had failed to do. It was decided that Thomas should have an
interview with her, but that, if he failed, no further effort should be
made to turn her from the error of her ways.
Thomas had been passing through a very difficult time of
conflict, fear and misery. As a man in love, he suffered from the
death of his hopes. As an ambitious youth, whose path to success
hitherto had seemed plain, he dreaded the suspicion that might
700 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
attach to him as the intimate friend of a heretic. As a student of
theology and history, who had never on his own account seen
reason to question his father's wisdom, he was appalled by the
dangerous consequences that would ensue if Diotima's beliefs
became common. Since her apostasy he had found many former
friends avoiding him, and he saw that he was losing the position
of a leader in his own group. His father, returning furious from his
interview with Diotima, spoke to him with grave severity:
"Thomas," he said, "Diotima is inspired by the Spirit of Evil,
to which in my theology I have hitherto given insufficient attention.
Dangerous thoughts emanate from her like lurid flames from a
sulphurous fire. I do not know what lodgment the poison may
have found in your own brain. For your sake, I hope not
much. But if you are to recover the general respect which has
hitherto rejoiced my parental heart, you will have to be very clear,
and make it very clear to all and sundry, that you are utterly
opposed to her vile heresies, and that no lingering affection will
blunt the edge of your desire to see her suffer the just penalty of her
infamy. There is, however, still a faint hope. It may be that you will
succeed where her parents and I have failed. If you do, all will be
well. But if you do not, it will be your duty to prove by your zeal
that you have suffered no contamination."
With these alarming words still ringing in his ears, Thomas
found himself admitted to Diotima's cell. For a moment the
spectacle of her beauty and her calm overwhelmed him. Human
love, and a passionate longing that she might yet be saved, swept
away in that first instant both prudence and orthodoxy. He burst
into tears and exclaimed, "O Diotima, would that I could save
"My poor Thomas," she replied, "how can you cherish so
foolish a hope? Whatever I may do, my life is forfeit. Either I die
as the Bride of Zahatopolk, with public honour and inward shame,
or I die as a criminal, despised and execrated except by my own
"Your own conscience!" he answered. "How can you set it
up as the sole arbiter against so much wisdom and such long ages ?
ZAHATOPOLK 1 01
O Diotima, how can you be so sure ? How can you know that all
of us are wrong? Have you no respect for my father? Are you
willing to besmirch your ancestors ? I have loved you. I have hoped
that you might love me. But that hope, I see, was vain. It is anguish
to say so, but I cannot continue to love you while you lacerate all
my deepest feelings. O Diotima, it is more than I can bear!"
"I am truly sorry," she said, "to have brought upon you this
cruel dilemma. Hitherto, you have had every reason to expect a
career both smooth and honourable. Henceforth, you have to
choose. If you condemn me, your career may still be smooth. If you
do not, it may be honourable. But I know, however you may
disguise it from yourself, that in your heart of hearts you cannot
be happy if you condemn me. You may, perhaps, during the busy
hours of the day, silence your doubts while you listen to public
applause; but in the night, you will see a vision in which I shall
be beckoning you towards a happier world. And as you turn your
back upon me, you will wake in agony. For I know that you have
seen, if only briefly, that vision for the sake of which I am willing
to be condemned. It is not, as we pretend, the sun and moon that
inspire our official creed. It is pride and fear: pride in our Empire,
and fear lest we may lose it. It is not upon these passions that human
life should be built. It should be built upon truth and love. It
should be lived without fear, in a happiness that all can share. It
should be unable to find a contentment resting upon the degrada-
tion of others. It should be ashamed to aim at a paltry physical
safety at the expense of the inner springs of joy and life which well
up in those who open their spirit to the world in fearless adventure.
We have let ourselves be bound in chains. Outside our own land
the chains have been forced upon their victims by us. We have
not realized that whoever imprisons another becomes himself a
prisoner, a prisoner of fear and hate. And the chains which we have
forged for others have bound us in a mental dungeon. Remember
the sun that found its way into our valley. Even so, light must
fall upon dark places of the world. And however little you may
know it now, it will be your mission when I am dead to carry on
102 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
For a moment her words found an echo in his heart. But he
summoned up his resolution, and his momentary yielding turned
to anger. "How can you think so! How can you think that such
high-flown verbiage can make me abandon all that I revere!
Further speech with you is useless. You must die. And I must live,
to combat the evil that you think good/' With these words he
rushed from her cell.
After Thomas's failure, the authorities gave up hope of inducing
Diotima to recant. A new Bride was chosen and Diotima was
condemned to die publicly at the very moment when she should
have enjoyed mystic unity with the Divinity.
The day of expiation was proclaimed a public holiday. The
stake was erected in the central square of the city. Seats for the
notables were in the front ranks. Behind, the whole population
of the city stood in greedy expectation. They laughed and joked
and jeered. They ate nuts and oranges. They made coarse jests,
and exulted in the expectation of the torture they were about to
witness. The notables in the front rows were more dignified, and
the Inca on His throne was majestically silent. Thomas, as his
father's son, was privileged to sit among the notables. He had been
suspected of sharing Diotima's heresy, and had cleared himself
of this suspicion with some vehemence. Both as a reward and as a
test, he was to have a full view of her death.
She was led in naked, and preserved a calm and unmoved
demeanour. The crowd shouted: "There's the wicked woman!
Now she'll find out who's God !" She was tied to the stake, and
flaming torches kindled the fire. As the flames reached her, she
looked at Thomas a strange and piercing look, expressing at
once anguish, pity, and appeal, pity for his weakness and appeal
to carry on her work. Her anguish tore his heart, her pity bruised
his manhood, and her appeal kindled in his mind a flame scarcely
less searing than that which was consuming her body. In a blinding
moment he saw that he had been wrong; he saw that what was
being done was an abomination; he saw that she stood for what
can be splendid in human life, and that the dignitaries and the
multitude alike were grovelling victims of bestial fear. In this one
104 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
terrible moment he repented but repentance is too mild a word
for what he experienced. He experienced a passion as intense as
that which had upheld her in the flames, a passion to devote
himself to the work which she could no longer perform, a passion
to liberate mankind from the shackles of fear and the cruelty
that it generates. He thought that he cried aloud, "Diotima, I am
yours !" But in this moment he fell unconscious, and the cry must
have been only in his own heart.
For a long time Thomas lay in hospital, gravely ill and incapable
of coherent thought. Intolerable loathsome visions floated through
his mind of tortured women and brutal men, of flames and death
and bestial cries of triumph. Slowly, reason reasserted itself.
Health returned and, with health, an inflexible determination by
which his whole character was transformed. No longer was he a
gentle and trusting youth willing to tread in his father's footsteps
and win such easy low-level success as his father's example would
secure him. With an insight born of devouring passion he , saw
through all the pretences of the Peruvian system and perceived
the far from laudable motives by which it was inspired and supported.
His intellect, which had been trained to work with mechanical
perfection within the limits imposed by orthodoxy, passed beyond
those limits without losing the keen edge of pitiless accuracy.
But it was not only his intellect that was liberated; it was also, and
even more, his heart. Peruvians had been taught to reverence the
State as the earthly garment of God, and to limit their sympathies
to those who served the State to the best of their abilities. But the
State had destroyed Diotima and, in rebellion against that cruelty,
he found himself rebelling against all the other cruelties, all the
other inhumanities, all the other institutions which fettered human
sympathy, not only in his own country but wherever human beings
were to be found. Love, hate and intellect were welded together
by the fire of his passion into a single steely whole; love first for
Diotima, and thence, by transference, to all other victims; hate
for those who condemned her, and thence for the whole system
which had made this condemnation possible; intellect, which told
him that the divinity of Zahatopolk was a myth, that the sun and
moon were not divinities but lifeless masses, that the condemnation
of birth control was superstitious, and that, in eating their children,
men killed in themselves their own capacity for sympathy and
kindliness. With all his mind and heart and will he resolved that, if
it were in any way possible, he would establish upon earth a better
system than that which he had been taught to revere, a system
more in harmony with Diotima's vision. The sense of guilt which
gnawed at his inmost being could, he thought, be appeased only if
he could make this offering to the torturing memory of Diotima.
But the offering to her memory, if it was to appease his remorse,
must be a change in the world, not a mere personal dedication or a
futile martyrdom. With a determination inwardly white-hot, but
outwardly as cold as ice, he set to work, first to think out a plan,
and then to carry it into execution. In public and with all whom
he could not fully trust, he breathed no word of criticism of the
established order. To his father, as to almost everybody else, he
appeared cleansed of whatever doubts he might once have felt.
The distrust with which he had been viewed during the last days of
Diotima soon passed away, and his official career marched smoothly
from success to success. He acquired a position of leadership
among his contemporaries, and his words were listened to as having
weight and wisdom.
His most ardent friend and admirer was a young man named
Paul. To Paul, at a very late hour on a summer night, he opened
his heart tentatively at first, but gradually, as he met with response,
more and more completely. Paul had had misgivings about the
burning of Diotima, but had wisely kept his misgivings to himself.
As Thomas spoke, Paul's misgivings acquired new force. They
106 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
talked through the whole summer night until the dawn appeared.
They parted sworn confederates in the promotion of whatever
revolution might prove possible. Gradually they gathered about
them a secret society of intending rebels. Students of science found
it impossible to accept the divinity of the sun and moon; students
of history could not believe in the inferiority of other races; students
of psychology were revolted by the cannibalistic thwarting of
parental affection. Stories of the Inca's far from divine behaviour
filtered through from Court circles in spite of all precautions. But
still Thomas held his hand.
In secret he encouraged the ablest among his disciples to make
researches of a kind which the Government had forbidden on pain
of death. Peruvian power had rested upon the death-dealing fungus
of Cotopaxi, but a brilliant young physician discovered a prophy-
lactic against the plague. Several among Thomas's confederates
became governors of remote provinces, for such posts, since they
involved exile from Peru, were considered disagreeable and usually
given to young men as the first step in the official hierarchy. Very
cautiously and very secretly, these men set to work to undo the
degradation which it had been the policy of Peru to produce in
other parts of the world. Paul, who remained his second-in-com-
mand, became Governor of the Province of Kilimanjaro. The
mountaineers of that region, owing to the austerities imposed by
nature, had remained hardy and vigorous. He took their head men
into his confidence and gave them, for the first time in many
centuries, the hope of escape from unworthy subjection. Many
of the conspirators remained in key positions in Peru, completely
unsuspected by their superiors.
At length, after twenty years of careful preparation, Thomas
judged that the time had come for open action. The whole course
that events were to take was carefully mapped. Thomas, by this
time Rector of the University, announced that on a given day he
would make a sensational revelation. All of his adherents, except
such as had special duties assigned to them, were told to be present
in the hall in which he would speak. Like his father at an earlier
time, he mounted the rostrum, but the words which he spoke were
vfery different from his father's. He avowed all his beliefs and all his
disbeliefs. To the amazement of those who were not in the plot,
his most subversive sentiments received loud applause. There was
bewilderment and panic. But the authorities, as had been foreseen,
succeeded in seizing him, and he was condemned, like Diotima, to
perish in the flames on the feast of Epiphany.
What happened after this was not what the Government had
intended. One of his scientific friends had discovered how to make
rain, and a deluge made it impossible to light the flames in which he
should have perished. His friend Paul, knowing the exact hour at
which the execution was to take place, dispatched from the head-
quarters of the Government at Kilimanjaro an enormous plane which
travelled at supersonic speed until it reached the rain-clouds over
Cuzco. From that point it dispatched a helicopter, which descended
upon the market-place and snatched up Thomas, who was borne
off to Kilimanjaro leaving the populace with the unshakable con-
viction that they had witnessed a miracle. The Government found
itself paralysed by the unsuspected disaffection of many of its
officers. When the authorities of Cuzco heard of rebellion in Kili-
manjaro they supposed that they could deal with it by means of the
fungus plague. When they learnt that the inhabitants of Africa were
immune to this plague, they were seized with terror, which turned
to consternation when they found that Thomas's scientists had
discovered how to produce radio-active death from the volcanic
slopes of the new Sacred Mountain. They had for so many centuries
had no occasion for fear that in the crisis their courage failed them,
and when Thomas's emissaries, in a great fleet of planes, circled
above them, threatening to let loose the death-dealing dust that
they had brought with them, the whole governing aristocracy
surrendered on the promise that their lives should be spared.
Kilimanjaro became the centre of government. Thomas was
proclaimed the President of the World, and Paul was appointed
his Prime Minister. All recognized that a new era had begun and
that the age of Zahatopolk was ended.
Thomas, as soon as his regime was secure, set to work to undo
the degradation to which non-Indian populations had been sub-
108 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
jected. He diminished the hours of physical work, which the
Peruvians had kept to ten, not from any economic motive, but
only in order that the workers might be too tired to have any
initiative. By means of his faithful band of scientists, he greatly
increased the world's food supply, and by declaring the preventing
of conception innocent, made the increase minister to health and
happiness, and not only to more rapid multiplication. He gave a
share of political power to all who had sufficient education, and he
extended education as quickly as possible throughout all parts of
the world. In many of the hitherto oppressed countries there was
a great outburst of painting and poetry and music. The suppressed
energies, which had lain dormant for centuries, sprang into a
luxuriant life such as had only been known before in a few countries
in a few great ages. He taught that there are no Gods. And, although
the populace ascribed his escape to a miracle, he did his best to
persuade the world that miracles are impossible. There were those
who wished to give him the position that Zahatopolk had previously
had, but he refused deification with emphasis and caused the
doctrine to be combated in all the schools. Under his regime there
were no priests and no aristocrats, no ruling races and no subject
The above is the account of the Great Revolution given by Thomas's
friend Paul after Thomas's reign of many years had been brought to
an end by his death. This account of his life and doctrines has
remained ever since the Sacred Book of the Kilimanjaro Era. But it
has gradually been found that some parts of Thomas's doctrine
are liable to misinterpretation, and that the reading of Paul's book
by all and sundry may be dangerous. He was not always careful
tQ indicate when he was to be taken literally and when he was
speaking allegorically. It is now universally recognized that Thomas
was in fact a God, and that Diotima was a Goddess. We know that
both for a time put on humanity, but at the moment of their
earthly death resumed their heavenly life, which for a few brief
years they had put away for our salvation. When Thomas denied
his Godhead he was, as all now acknowledge, denying it only as
regards his earthly manifestation. All this was carefully explained
about five hundred years after his death by the great commentator
For a time Paul's book was still allowed to circulate, provided
the commentary of Gregorius was bound up with it. But even this
was found to have dangers, and the book, even with the com-
mentary, is now not allowed to be read except by licensed Divines.
Even so, it remains a danger. New Zealand contains one copy in
the University of Auckland. This copy was lately returned to the
University with a strange note upon its last page. The note said:
"I, Tupia, of the tribe of Ngapuhi, a dweller upon the slopes of
Ruapehu, am not persuaded of the justice of Gregorius's glosses.
I am convinced that Thomas was wiser than Gregorius, and that
he meant literally all the things which that theologically minded
priest finds troublesome. It shall be my mission, if possible, to lead
the world back to that ancient unfaith which its liberator tried to
These are ominous words, and their outcome is as yet uncertain.
Faith and Mountains
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS
The Nepalese delegate to UNESCO was surprised and puzzled.
It was the first time that he had abandoned the safety of his native
glaciers and precipices for the bewildering perils of the West.
Arriving by air late on the previous evening, he had been too tired
to notice anything, and had slept heavily until the morning was well
advanced. He looked out upon a street which, as he was informed
by the waiter who brought his breakfast, was called Piccadilly.
But it did not wear the aspect which the cinema had led him to
anticipate. There was no ordinary traffic, but an immense procession
of men and women on foot bearing banners of which his phrase-
book did not enable him to guess the meaning. The inscriptions
on the banners were repeated at such frequent intervals that at last
he had deciphered them all. They said various things which, he
was compelled to suppose, all pointed one moral. The commonest
was, "Hail to Molybdenum, Maker of Healthy Bodies!" Another
which occurred with great frequency was "Up with the Molyb-
denes!" A third, not quite so frequent, said, "Long Life to the
114 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Holy Molly B. Dean!" One peculiarly ferocious band had a banner,
saying, "Death to the Infamous Magnets !" The procession was of
enormous length and, at intervals of about a quarter of a mile,
there was a band and a choir which sang what appeared to be the
battle-hymn of the marchers:
Molybdenum of metals best
Is good for high and low.
It cures diseases of the chest
And makes our muscles grow.
This hymn was sung to the tune of "There is a book who runs may
read," but this the delegate did not know, as he had not had the
benefit of a Christian upbringing.
After he had begun to think that the procession would never
end, there came a gap. Then a solid squadron of mounted police.
And then another procession, with quite other banners. Some of
these said, "Glory to Aurora Bohra!" Others said, "All Power to
the Northern Pole!" Yet others said, "Through Magnetism to
Magnificence!" The marchers in this second procession also sang
a hymn, as unintelligible to him as the hymn of the first procession.
I go forth
To the North
In my jet-propelled chariot.
I descend on the Pole
For the good of my soul
And learn to think Bohra much better than Harriet.
With every moment his curiosity increased. At last it became
overwhelming. He rushed out into the street and joined the
procession. With true oriental courtesy he addressed his neighbour
pedestrian with the words: "Would you, Sir, deign to have the
great kindness to explain to me why this musical multitude marches
westward with such rhythmic persistence?"
"Lor bless yer!" said the man he addressed. "Mean to say yer
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS II 5
.don't know about the Magnets? And where may you have come
"Sir," replied the delegate, "you must bear with my ignorance.
I have but recently dropped from the skies, and have dwelt hitherto
in the Himalayas, in a legion inhabited only by Buddhists and
Communists, who are quiet, peaceable folk, not addicted to such
"Gorblimey!" said his neighbour. "If that's so, it would take
more breath than I can spare to make you understand!"
The delegate therefore marched on in silence, hoping that time
would bring enlightenment.
At length the procession arrived at an enormous round building
which, as his neighbour informed him, was called the Albert Hall.
Some of the procession were admitted within, but the great majority
were compelled to remain without. The Nepalese at first was
refused admission. But, on explaining his official position as a
delegate, and the profound interest of his country in Occidental
Cultural Phenomena, he was at last allowed to take a seat far back
in the exact middle of the platfoim.
What he saw and what he heard seemed to him to throw a
great light upon the manners and customs, the beliefs and habits
of thought of the strange people among whom he found himself.
But so much remained unintelligible to him that he determined to
devote himself to serious research and to draw up an elucidatory
report for the enlightrnent of Himalayan sages.
The work proved onerous, and it was not until twelve months
had passed that he deemed it worthy of the wise eyes of those who
had sent him. During these twelve months I had had the good
fortune to make friends with him, and to be allowed to share in his
wisdom. The following account of the great debate, and the events
that led up to it and followed it, is based upon his report. Without
his labours, my account could not have been so exhaustive or so
Il6 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
The two sects, whose public debate the Nepalese delegate witnessed,
had each emerged after a period of obscurity, and had, in recent
years, grown with such amazing rapidity that hardly anybody,
except highbrows, failed to belong to one or other. They were
called, respectively, the Molybdenes and the Northern Magnets,
or simply the Magnets. Each had its head office in London. The
affairs of the Molybdenes were directed by Zeruiah Tomkins, and
those of the Magnets by Manasseh Merrow. In each case the
fundamental doctrine of the sect was simple.
The Molybdenes believed that the human frame requires, for
full development of health and strength, a larger amount of
molybdenum in the diet than has hitherto been customary. Their
favourite text was: "He that eateth, eateth unto the Lord. And he
that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not." But they changed the
order of the words in the latter half of this text so as to make it
read: "He that eateth not, eateth not unto the Lord." He that
eateth, they explained, means a person who eats molybdenum. They
supported their position by a story for whose truth I cannot vouch.
Large flocks of sheep in a certain district of Australia, which had
withered away, had slowly perished because their scanty pastures,
unlike those of Europe and Asia, were wholly destitute of molyb-
denum. Certain biochemists and medical men not perhaps
quite the most eminent in their respective professions had made
statements as to the dietetic importance of molybdenum, and these
statements were seized upon by the faithful as supports for their
creed. There had been a considerable demand for this not very
common metal in armaments, but the gradual lessening of tension
had diminished this demand. Now, however, owing to the growth
of the Molybdenes, the demand for molybdenum had ceased to be
dependent upon the threat of war. The Molybdenes were opposed
to war. They regarded all men as brothers, except the Northern
Magnets; and the Northern Magnets were to be overcome, not by
force of arms, but by the Pure Light of Truth.
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 7/7
The Northern Magnets found the secret of human welfare in a
quite different direction, "We are all," so they said, "the Children
of Earth, and the Earth, as every schoolboy knows, is a great
magnet. We must all share, in a greater or less degree, the magnetic
propensities of our Mighty Mother, but, if we do not submit
ourselves to her beneficent authority, we shall become unclear and
confused. We should therefore always sleep with our heads towards
the North Magnetic Pole and our feet towards the South Magnetic
Pole. Those who persistently sleep thus will gradually acquire a
share in the magnetic powers of Earth. They will be healthy,
vigorous, and wise/' So at least the Northern Magnets unshakably
In both sects there was an inner and an outer circle. The inner
circle were called "Adepts", and the outer circle, "Adherents."
Inner and outer circle alike had a badge by which they could be
known. The Molybdenes wore a ring made of molybdenum, and
the Northern Magnets wore a magnet as a locket. The Adepts
devoted themselves to the holy life, consisting partly in observances
and partly in missionary work. Both communities of Adepts were
healthy, happy and virtuous. Alcohol and tobacco were forbidden
them. They went early to bed, the Molybdenes in order that the
health-giving molybdenum they had consumed might be absorbed
into the blood-stream, the Northern Magnets in order that the
magnetic powers of Earth might operate fully during the hours of
darkness. Sustained by faith, the Adepts were little troubled by the
daily rubs which ruffle the tempers of those not sustained in this way.
True, they had in early days had their difficulties. Unwise zealots
had pushed the eminently sane doctrines of the two sects beyond
the limits of wisdom. At one time there was among the Molybdenes
an extreme faction which thought that holiness could be measured
by the amount of molybdenum consumed each day. Some went so
far that their skin became metallic, and it was found that, sublime
as were their intentions, in molybdenum, as in everything else, it
was possible to indulge to excess. The elders, after a stormy meeting,
were compelled to discipline the zealots. But after this painful inci-
dent no similar trouble again arose.
Il8 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Among the Magnets there was a different deviation into
fanaticism. There were those who said: "If virtue comes while we
lie prone in the direction of the lines of terrestrial magnetic force,
it is clear that we ought always to lie thus, and that to rise from
our beds is to risk dissipation of the vivificatory virtue that Earth
confers upon those who duly worship her." These zealots accor-
dingly spent the whole twenty-four hours in bed, to the no small
inconvenience of their less ardent relatives and friends. This
heresy, like that of the Molybdenes, was subdued, though with
difficulty, by the authority of the elders, and it was decreed that,
except in times of ill-health, no Northern Magnet should spend
more than twelve hours out of twenty-four in his bed.
Both these troubles, however, belonged to the early days of the
two sects. In their later days, missionary ardour and swift success
combined with health and vigour to fill their lives with joy. One
thing only troubled the Adepts: The Molybdenes could not under-
stand why Providence permitted the growth of the Northern
Magnets; and the Northern Magnets could not understand why
Providence permitted the growth of the Molybdenes. Each sect
consoled itself with the thought that there must be mystery some-
where, and that it is not given to the finite intellect of man to fathom
the august designs of Providence. Doubtless, in the fullness of
time, Truth would prevail, and the sect which had throughout
proclaimed the Truth would win universal adherence. Meantime,
it was the duty of the Adepts, by example, by precept, by wise
words in and out of season, to spread the light. In this effort, the
success of both parties was, to the indifferent, amazing.
In early days, each sect had had to face the ridicule of un-
believers. "Why molybdenum?" said these scoffers. "Why not
strontium? What not barium? What is the peculiar glory of this
one element?" When the believers replied that this was a mystery
intelligible only to those who already had faith, the answer was
received with derision.
The Northern Magnets had equal difficulties to face, "Why not
the South Magnetic Pole?" said the sceptics. Some, especially
certain inhabitants of the Southern hemisphere, went so far as to
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS ll<)
sleep habitually with their heads towards the South, and challenged
Northern Magnets to wrestling matches designed to prove that the
South Magnetic Pole is as invigorating as the one in the North.
Such challenges were treated by the Northern Magnets with the
contempt that they deserved. They replied that, while those who
followed the prescribed regimen would achieve physical health and
strength, it was not this alone that they would achieve, but an
inner harmony through interpenetration by the magnetic might of
Earth. In mere brawn some among them might be surpassed by
some among unbelievers. In the perfect harmony of body and
spirit True Believers would remain supreme. And as for the pre-
tence that the South Pole was just as good as the North Pole, how,
if this were true, could it be explained why the Creator had made
so much more land in the North than in the South ? This argument,
though it aroused some anger in South America, South Africa,
and Australia, was felt to be very difficult to meet. Only the firm
fervour of the Molybdenes was impervious to the arguments of the
Each side urged, and urged with justice, that to meet faith in
falsehood, only faith in Truth was adequate. Never could cold
reason unaided prevail against the misleading ardour of deluded
fanatics. While the two sects were still young, some men of science
and some literary satirists had endeavoured to meet their claims
by the combined force of statistics and ridicule. But they had been
powerless to stem the popular tide, and, in time, only men whom
superior intelligence (or what they themselves deemed such) had
cut off from sympathy with the mass of mankind stood out against
both sects. The more expensive newspapers, which had small
circulations, and were read only by the aristocracy of intellect,
continued to remain aloof and neutral. They said as little as they
could about the doings of the two sects, with the result that persons
of superior education were almost unaware of what was happening
round about them. The cheaper newspapers tried at first to placate
both parties, but this proved impossible. Any word of praise of
the Northern Magnets roused all Molybdenes to fury. Any not
derogatory mention of the Molybdenes caused the Northern
120 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Magnets to vow that they would never again read so degraded a,
journal. The popular newspapers were therefore compelled to take
sides. The Daily Lightning sided with the Northern Magnets;
The Daily Thunder with the Molybdenes. Day by day, each
portrayed more luridly than before the moral and intellectual
degradation of the opposite party and the almost incredible heights
of purity, devotion and vigour achieved by the party which the
journal supported. Under the influence of such journalistic skill
party spirit ran higher and higher, national unity was lost, and it
was even feared that civil war might ensue.
Nor was the trouble confined to Britain. Indeed its gravest
aspect was an increasing tension between the United States and
Canada, which came about through causes that we have not yet
The Founder of the Molybdenes was a certain middle-aged
American widow named Molly B. Dean. Her husband had been a
very rich man, but meek with that kind of meekness which,
according to the Gospels, inherits the earth. He possessed, partly
by inheritance and partly by skilful investment, a great deal of the
earth of Colorado. His wife, to whom he left the whole of his
immense fortune, was one of those ladies who are obviously born
to be widows. Those who marry such ladies never achieve old age.
And Mr. Dean duly died in the prime of life. She, however, appears
to have not recognized this as an inevitable part of her destiny, for,
when discoursing on the merits of molybdenum, she was wont to
say: "Ah, had I but known of the beneficent effects of this metal
sooner, my dear husband Jehoshaphat might still be on this side
of the Great Veil!"
Mrs. Molly B. Dean, whose religion and business acumen were
perhaps not quite so separate as one could wish, discovered, on
examining her husband's investments after his death, that she
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 121
qwned about nine-tenths of the world's supply of molybdenum ore.
She was struck by the similarity between the name of this element
and her own name. Such similarity, she felt convinced, could not
be due to chance. It must be the work of Destiny. It must be her
glorious mission to give her name to a new faith, purer than any
previous faith and not less profitable to herself.
The adherents of the new faith should be taught to consume
molybdenum, and should be named, after herself, the Molybdenes.
The offspring of the moment of creative thought grew rapidly and
was soon able to walk upon its two legs of religious faith and
business acumen. Lest either should interfere with the other, she
formed a company, called Amalgamated Metals Inc., of which she
retained control, although her name did not appear. At the same
time, she poured her religious beliefs into the mind of Zeruiah
Tomkins, a man somewhat younger than herself, who had had
great success as a Baptist preacher, but had fallen into disfavour
through a slight lapse from orthodoxy. Her powerful personality
dominated him completely. He accepted her every word as divine
revelation, and became filled with an immense ardour for the
regeneration of mankind through her very original gospel. His
organizing capacity was as great as his zeal; and she entrusted to
him, without a qualm, the terrestrial affairs of the holy brotherhood
of the Molybdenes.
The Northern Magnets owed their origin, though they themselves
were unaware of this fact, to an important man named Sir Magnus
North. Sir Magnus was a prominent figure in the national life of
Canada and the owner of vast tracts of land in the empty North-
West, which he believed to be possessed of great mineral wealth.
He decided to put the North- West "on the map." He employed
eminent geophysicists to locate the Magnetic Pole more accurately
than had hitherto been done, and discovered, as he had hoped, that
is was in the very middle of the lands of which he was owner.
He discovered also, or rather the explorers whom he employed
discovered, that at the Magnetic Pole there is a volcanic mountain,
and, whether from volcanic action or as a result of radio-activity,
the soil in the neighbourhood is warm, snow does not lie, and
122 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
there Is a lake which even in winter remains unfrozen. With these
data in his possession he planned a great campaign. With the help
of a professor of anthropology who had studied the beliefs of
Eskimos and Northern Indians, he formulated the main tenets of
the creed which became that of the Northern Magnets. But, as he
was warned by the anthropologist, and as he knew from experiences
on the Stock Exchange, it is not by pure reason that men are
governed. Although to a rational mind the arguments in favour
of the creed which he wished to propagate must prove irresistible,
he sought and found a key to men's hearts at once softer and more
compelling. He realized that it was not for him to be the missionary
of the new sect. The missionary must be at once dynamic and
mystical, someone capable of appealing to the deepest chords of
the human heart, someone who could introduce into the feelings of
men and women that strange unquiet peace which seems to bring
happiness, but does not bring slothful inactivity.
The search for such a Founder he left in the hands of his anthro-
pologist, who interviewed the leaders of sects in Los Angeles, in
Chicago, and wherever new beliefs were being ardently sought.
Acting on the orders of Sir Magnus, he did not reveal his purpose.
At last he prepared a short list of three, and submitted it to Sir
Magnus for his final decision. Of the three, there was one whom
Sir Magnus judged to be outstanding. She had been electrifying
Winnipeg, of which she was a native, by the promise of a great rev-
elation to come; but what the nature of the revelation should be she
had not yet told. She was a lady of majestic proportions: her height
was six foot four, and all her other dimensions were to scale. Many
of those who beheld her were reminded of the Statue of Liberty,
but she was even more august. There was only one thing against
her, and that was her name, which was Amelia Skeggs. Sir Magnus,
when he reflected upon the future for which he hoped, found it
difficult to imagine the world adhering to Skeggendom or
Skeggianity. He remembered the fate of the Muggletonians, who
had everything in their favour, except the unfortunate name
Muggleton. For a time this difficulty made him hesitate, but in the
end he found a triumphant solution. When he had found it, he
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 123
decided that the time had come to reveal to the majestic Amelia
the great destiny which he planned for her.
"Miss Skeggs," he said, "I know from your eloquent preaching
that you are aware of a great destiny. Nature has fashioned you to
dominate mankind not only by your splendid frame but by the
greatness of the soul that inhabits it. You know that you are to
have a mission; but you have not known until now what that mission
is to be. It is left to me, as the humble emissary of Providence,
to show you the way to that towering spiritual eminence for which
you know yourself to be destined." He then explained to her the
tenets which became those of the Northern Magnets.
As he spoke, she became filled with spiritual fire. Not a doubt
remained anywhere. This was the gospel which she had been
seeking. This was the happy truth which should make Canada the
Holy Land, and lead the faithful of all the world, in humble
pilgrimages, to its magnetic shrine.
One step remained for Sir Magnus. "You must have in religion,"
he said, "a different name from that which you have had in the
world; a dedicated name, a name whose very syllables reverberate
your sacred task. Henceforth, you shall be known to all the nations
of the world by a new and splendid appellation: All Hail to You,
She left his presence intoxicated, exalted, filled with mystic
ecstacy and high purpose. From that moment, their collaboration
was perfect. But, acting upon his instructions, she kept his part
It did not take long for Aurora Bohra to become known and
successful in wide circles. She was fortunate in obtaining the
assistance of Manasseh Merrow, a man who, while possessed of
great organizing ability, had always been conscious of a lack in
himself, a lack of those spiritual qualities which, as a youth, he had
admired in the memory of his sainted mother. This lack was made
up to him by Aurora Bohra, for whom he felt a devout and un-
faltering worship. If anyone had asked him whether he loved her,
124 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
he would have been outraged by the blasphemy. It was not love,
but adoration that he felt for her. He laid at her feet all his great
ability in practical affairs, and left her free for the expression of
that mellifluous ecstasy upon which her hold on men and women
One of the first enterprises to which the Northern Magnets owed
their success was the creation of the great circular sanatorium
surrounding the Magnetic Pole. To this sanatorium was given the
name of the Magnetic Home. In this enormous edifice the head of
every bed pointed exactly towards the North Magnetic Pole which
occupied the centre of the circular courtyard. The foot of every
bed pointed exactly towards the South Magnetic Pole. Owing to
the situation of this sanatorium, the curative effects of terrestrial
magnetism were far greater than elsewhere. Most of the Adherents
secured both mental and physical health by obeying the ordinary
regimen; but there were some who, in the early months of their
discipleship, retained traces of a neurasthenia which they had brought
from their days of unbelief. Such unquiet spirits, provided they
had the necessary means, were transported in luxurious jet-planes to
the Polar sanatorium where every luxury was provided, and where
alcohol and tobacco, elsewhere forbidden to the faithful, were
permitted for medicinal purposes.
One of the earliest of these neurasthenic visitors to the sana-
torium, whose name was Jedidiah Jelliffe, had been driven to the
verge of insanity by hopeless love for an exquisitely beautiful
lady named Harriet Hemlock. The magnetism of Auroro Bohra
completely cured him. And, in gratitude for his cure, he celebrated
his liberation in immortal verse, which became the marching hymn
of the Northern Magnets and which had bewildered the ears of the
126 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
At the exact location of the Magnetic Pole, which was in the
precise centre of the circular coutyard, there was a flagstaff from
which floated at most times the banner of the Northern Magnets,
which represented the head of Auroro Bohra with the Aurora
Borealis streaming from it in all directions. But once every day,
after a period during which the faithful, under the threat of dire
penalties, were compelled to avert their gaze, the flag was replaced
by an eyrie from which, dressed in flowing back robes, the majestic
priestess spoke her words of inspired wisdom. Above her head
were nine loud-speakers, eight of them horizontal, pointing North,
South, East, and West, North-East, South- West, South-East, and
North- West. These were trumpets of silver. But there was in
addition another loud-speaker, a trumpet of pure gold, pointing
straight upwards in order that her words might be heard in heaven
as well as on earth.
Standing upon a pedestal unseen by the faithful below, in a
slowly rotating circular chamber with walls of the most translucent
glass, with arms waving as though in an incipient embrace and
her whole body slowly undulating as though obeying the lines of
a magnetic stream, with her great eyes piercing and yet contem-
plative, sometimes flashing, sometimes veiled, she spoke. Her voice,
which was unlike any that the hearers had heard elsewhere, combined
the majesty of rolling mountain thunder with the lingering gentle-
ness of the dove.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Magnetism," she would say, "it
is my privilege once again to speak to you of our Holy Faith, and
to convey, by the power mysteriously vouchsafed to me, the
strength and peace of our Magnetic Mother Earth. Through
my veins flows Her fire; in my thoughts dwells Her ineffable calm.
Both shall come, though perhaps in diminished degree, to you,
My Beloved Hearers. Is your life troubled and unquiet? Do you
fear that the ardent affection, which you once received from your
husband or your wife, is less than it was? Does your business fail
to prosper? Do your neighbours treat you with less respect than,
I am sure, you deserve ? Be not troubled, Dear Friends. The arms
of Our Great Mother Earth enfold you. Your sorrows, permitted
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 12J
for a moment, are but intended to try your faith. Lay aside your
burdens, and let Magnetic Health flow into you. Love, strength
and joy be yours, as they are mine!"
All who heard her were affected in their different ways. The
weary became alert; the despondent were filled with peace; those
who had been embittered by grievances began to feel them trivial;
and, in the adoration of Aurora, all found themselves united in a
The Molybdenes also had their recreative palace, situated at the
top of Acme Alp in Colorado. This was a mountain some ten
thousand feet high, covered in snow during eight months of the
year, but, during the other four, lovely with mountain meadows
carpeted with gentians and other wild flowers. From its summit
there was a vast prospect in every direction of mountains and
valleys, woods and streams, and the red Colorado River winding
its way through obstacles in the distance. It was not, however, the
beauty of the prospect alone that recommended this site to Molly
B. Dean. It had another, and perhaps even greater, merit in her eyes.
Acme Alp was at the very centre of the molybdenum region over
which she held sway. The recreative palace at its summit was
known far and wide as the Acme Sanitarium. Owing to the steepness
of the hillside it could be reached only by helicopter. Visitors were
brought by plane to Denver, and there trans-shipped into one of the
great fleet of these ingenious machines kept always in readiness
for the guests of that luxurious establishment.
Although perhaps less theatrical than the Magnet Sanatorium,
the Acme Sanitarium was no whit less comfortable. New arrivals,
it is true, were sometimes a little alarmed by the unusual quality
of the menu. They would find that they were being offered for their
first dinner Molydacious Mulligatawny, Molyb Polyp, Molybden-
ized Mutton, and Molyfluous Meringues or some variant, for
Molly B. Dean was aware that monotony was of all things to be
avoided, and the Molybdenic quality of the diet therefore underwent
different disguises on different evenings. There was a great difference
between the atmosphere created by Molly B. Dean and that diffused
by Aurora Bohra. Aurora Bohra believed in the mystic powers
128 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
of Earth, and encouraged a certain passive receptivity as the source
of subsequent vigorous action. Molly B. Dean, on the contrary,
believed in calling out in each individual his own strength, his
own power of will, his own control over his destiny. Not for her,
the reliance upon external help! In her stirring radio addresses,
to which, before the evening meal, the guests in her Sanitarium
were compelled to listen, she would appeal to each man and each
woman aye, and to each child, too to draw upon that inner
fund of determination, upon which, in the last resort, we must all
depend. She had worked out a technique for the development of
"Do you," she would say, "feel a reluctance to rise from your
bed in the morning? Do not yield to it! Begin your waking day
with a firm act of will. Mount your mechanical horse, and, after
five minutes of strenuous exertion with this health-giving imple-
ment, devote yourself to muscular exercises unassisted by adjuncts.
Touch your toes with your hands ninety-nine times while keeping
your knees as stiff as a ramrod. After this, you will feel no hardship
in your cold bath, though the water be obtained from melting
snow. Your toilet completed, you will descend to your communal
breakfast filled with appetite and energy, ready for whatever the
day may bring. Is your mail full of tiresome chores? What of it?
You dispose of it with only a tiny fragment of the power derived
from your pre-breakfast regimen. Have your investments dimin-
ished in value? That need not trouble you, for the intellectual
clarity derived from the mechanical horse will enable you, without
difficulty, to select, with shrewd judgment, new investments of
which the future prosperity is unquestionable. And should sinful
thoughts come, as come they may even in this Holy Palace; should
you permit yourself to wish that a longer period in bed, or a less
frigid bath, were permitted; should you hanker after non-
molybdenized mutton; should you even, tempted doubtless by
Satan, harbour the dreadful thought that strontium might do just
as well in all or any of these terrible situations you can find
salvation by a simple rule: you must first run ten times round the
courtyard of the palace, and then open at haphazard the Sacred
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 12$
Volume, Molybdenum^ the Cure for Morbid Mopings. Wherever
this volume may open you will find your eye resting upon some
health-giving text, and you will be able, by your own strength,
to banish the horrid thoughts which had been diverting the pure
stream of your unsullied life-force. Above all, remember this: It is
not in thought that salvation is to be found, but in action, strenuous
action, health-giving action, action that generates power. When
the wiles of Satan threaten to ensnare you, it is not to tortuous
thought that you must turn, but to action. And what that action
should be, you will find in the Sacred Volume. Action! Action!
Action! Action in the Holy Name of Molybdenum !"
The business management of the two recreative palaces was left
by Molly B. Dean and Aurora Bohra in the hands of their respective
managers, Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow. Each of these men
realized that the sect of which he was in charge was exposed to the
enmity of the other sect. Each was persuaded that the other sect
consisted of unscrupulous scoundrels, who would shrink from
nothing to effect the ruin of their rivals. Each therefore installed,
not only in the public rooms, but in every bedroom, dictaphones
which recorded the supposedly private conversations of the guests.
Each found that there were grumblers, nay even incipient sceptics,
who had somehow found admission in spite of all the care of the
In Acme Alp the centre of disaffection was traced, by skilful
secret service work, to a certain Mr. Wagner. Mr. Wagner had
seemed to the Management exactly the sort of man for whom the
Sanitarium was designed. He had been, the Management under-
stood, a successful business man, but had become afflicted with
indecision. He would say, "I have studied the merits of this and
that, and have found the arguments exactly evenly balanced. What,
/JO NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
in these circumstances, am I to do ?" There was a danger that in
this mood his fortune would be dissipated. He had sought salvation
with the Molybdenes, and had apparently hoped to find it. But
although his condition improved, the cure remained incomplete,
and it was decided that a period at Acme Alp would be necessary.
With due submission to the authorities, he agreed. And, leaving
his business interests for the time being in the hands of subordinates,
he sought the health-giving atmosphere of that strenuous House of
But his conversation while there was of a sort that it was difficult
to approve. He would say, addressing some chance acquaintance
after dinner, "You know, it is marvellous what molybdenum does
for the Molybdenes ! But there are some things that puzzle me, and
to which I find no answer in the Sacred Volume. Since molybdenum
is mainly concentrated in Colorado, one must suppose that the
inhabitants of this State consume more of it than those who live
in other parts of this great Republic. But, on examining the vital
statistics, I have not discovered any measurable difference between
the health of Colorado and that of other States. This, I confess,
puzzles me. Another thing also gave me pause: I asked a scientific
physician of my acquaintance to examine minutely the imports
and exports of molybdenum in the body of a devout Molybdene,
who has consumed that amount of the Sacred Metal prescribed by
our revered Leader, and in an ordinary citizen. I found, to my
amazement, that the amount of molybdenum retained in the body
of a healthy Molybdene is no greater than that retained in the body
of a man whose diet is normal. I am sure there must be an answer
to these perplexities, but I wish I knew what it is. I do not wish to
trouble Mr. Tomkins, who is a very busy man. Can you suggest
some way of resolving my difficulties?"
It was found that he had made speeches of this sort to a number
of people at Acme Alp. But nothing definite could be proved against
him, and, in the end, it was decided to pronounce him cured and
send him back to his home.
A somewhat similar trouble arose shortly afterwards at the
Magnetic Home. A certain Mr. Thorney, who was, or was supposed
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS ZJl
to be, a traveller in out-of-the-way lands, returned from an expe-
dition, or so he said, worn out with the hardships that a series of
mishaps had imposed upon him. Weary and discouraged, he sought
the life-giving force that the Northern Magnets offered. He became
an Adherent, and his friends among the Faithful hoped for rapid
improvement. But improvement was discouragingly slow, and
he seemed incapable of feeling again the zest which had sent him
upon his travels. It was decided by the authorities that only a visit
to the Magnetic Pole could complete his cure. There, however,
as on Acme Alp, dictaphones had been installed by the wise prudence
of those who foresaw the machinations of their rivals. And it was
found that, while Mr. Thorney's conversation could not be con-
demned as definitely heretical, it had nevertheless a subtle tendency
to diminish the firmness of belief in those who listened to it. It
was suspected that he had not a due reverence for Aurora Bohra,
whom the Faithful never saw except when she was in her eyrie.
"Have you ever wondered," he would say to a neighbour, "how
tall Aurora really is?" "No," the neighbour would say in a slightly
shocked tone, "and I am not sure that I consider the question quite
nice." "Oh well," Mr. Thorney would reply, "she is, after all, a
real women of flesh and blood. Having had to practise surveying in
my travels, I took the liberty of estimating her height with my
sextant. Allowing for her feet, which I could not see, I concluded
that her height is between six foot three and a half inches and
six foot four and a half inches. I could not make my estimate more
exact because of the refracting properties of the glass through which
we see her. But I was able to assure myself beyond a doubt that
she is a fine figure of a woman."
It was not the thing to speak in these terms of the presiding
Goddess; but it must be acknowledged, though with pain, that
there were some who fell in with Mr. Thorney's manner, and were
thenceforth less inclined to attribute supernatural powers to that
Noble Lady. Where he found favourable soil for the seeds of his
irreverence, he would go farther. He would say, "You know,
there is a circumstance, known perhaps to few white men except
myself, which I find very difficult to explain on the basis of the
132 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Magnetic Principles that we all accept. There is, in a certain very
remote part of Tibet, a valley of quite extraordinary narrowness,
almost a chasm, which points, as my survey assured me, directly
towards the North Magnetic Pole. Although the valley is so narrow,
there are those who spend the summer in it, because it contains
diamonds. They have to sleep with their heads towards the North
or with their heads towards the South. Some choose the one,
some the other. One might have expected that those who sleep
with their heads towards the North would be in all respects superior
to those who choose the opposite posture. But, although I spent a
considerable time among them and made inquiries into their past
history, I was unable to discover any such difference as our Holy
Faith compels us to postulate. There is, I am sure, some quite
conclusive answer, but I have been unable to imagine what it may
be. If you, or any of your friends, can resolve my perplexity, you
will earn my deepest gratitude."
When dictaphones revealed his habit of putting such questions
to the other visitors in the circular palace, it was decided by the
authorities that, though he was doubtless a genuine seeker after
Truth, the form and method of his search were not such as to
deserve encouragement. He was therefore prematurely pronounced
cured, and sent home, with a caution to meditate in silence, if at
all, upon the curious questions that he had somewhat rashly raised.
In spite of such slight difficulties, both movements prospered.
The Northern Magnets won the support of everybody in Scan-
dinavia, except the Intelligentsia. Iceland and Greenland followed
suit, and their men of science proved conclusively that, in course
of time, the Magnetic Pole would be theirs. In the United States
it was the Molybdenes who flourished. The State of Utah, where
considerable stores of molybdenum were discovered, solemnly
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 133
abandoned the Book of Mormon and substituted Molybdenum^
the Cure for Morbid Mopings. As some reward for this accession
to the True Faith, Molly B. Dean conceded that Utah should be
incorporated in the Holy Land. Throughout the Western World, the
bewildered young, who had been unable to choose whole-heartedly
either the Kremlin or the Vatican as objects of adoration, found
mental and emotional rest in one or other of the two new
In England, where the two factions were very evenly balanced,
acute conflict was more threatened than anywhere else. Test
matches no longer aroused interest, the older football teams were
forgotten, and only the great matches between Molybdenes and
Magnets attracted the crowds. Not only in football, but in every
kind of athletic contest, the Molybdenes and the Magnets competed
with fluctuating success and without decisive superiority for either.
It was found, with some dismay, that the crowds were no longer
good-natured, and that fights broke out between irascible adherents
of the rival faiths. At last a rule had to be adopted separating
Molybdenes and Magnets by placing one of these to the right and
one to the left. Those who avowed themselves neutrals were viewed
with contempt and told to go home.
The Highbrows would have been delighted to make their peace
with both, but this was impossible. "He that is not with us, is
against us," such temporizers were firmly told. Nevertheless, some
attempt at conciliation persisted. The Tempora Supplementary
Letters had a deeply reflective article on the two creeds. "It must
be conceded," so this article said, "that to the coldly critical intellect,
there are difficulties in both the gospels which are bringing new
hopes and new life to the weary West. But those who are imbued
with the great tradition, those who have absorbed and digested the
message of all the great thinkers, from Plato to St. Thomas Aquinas,
will not lightly reject new faiths, even though they may appear
impossible, as the Christian faith did to Tertullian, who, in spite
of such impossibility nay, because of it accepted whole-heartedly
the new tenets which transcended reason. All right-thinking people,
whatever difficulty they may have in choosing between the
NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Molybdenes and the Magnets, will welcome what the two movements
have in common. Not so long ago a coldly mechanist philosophy
dominated the thoughts of our accepted pundits. Those deeper
sources of wisdom, which are not derived from mere observation
of brute fact, but well up in the humble heart when it opens itself
to the operation of the Great Spirit of Truth from these the
Molybdenes and the Magnets alike derive refreshment. Gone is
the insolence of sciolists; gone is the shallow certainty of those
who ignore the Eternal Verities upon which our Western World
is founded. In the Molybdenes and the Magnets alike there is so
much that every lover of wisdom must welcome, that we cannot
but regret their separateness and rivalry. We believe, and in this
belief we are not alone, that an amalgamation is possible, and that,
if effected, it will give to the faith in our Western Values that
unshakable strength which is needed in the fateful contest with the
atheism of the East."
This weighty pronouncement had influential backing. The
British Government, torn between love of the Commonwealth and
dependence upon the United States, viewed with the deepest alarm
the growing tension between Canada and the western half of the
United States. Such tension, if it could not be eased, could bring
to nought the work, not only of the United Nations, but also of
NATO. In England, the adherents of the two parties were about
equal in numbers. Both were strong, but neither could hope to be
supreme. The British Government approached Mr. Tomkins and
Mr. Merrow with proposals for a conference, and with earnest
suggestions for at least a modus vivendi between the two sects.
Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow consulted by long-distance
telephone the High Priestesses, Molly B. Dean and Aurora Bohra.
Aurora Bohra secretly consulted Sir Magnus North. The outcome
of these various consultations was the decision to hold a great
meeting in the Albert Hall at which, by public debate, some form
of agreement was to be reached. Such at least was the outcome
for which the Government hoped. But the hopes of the two parties
were different. Each was so firmly persuaded of its own invin-
cibility that it felt no doubt of victory in a public confrontation,
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS
and it was in virtue of this confidence that each side assented to the
It was agreed that the great meeting should be held under the
chairmanship of the Professor of Comparative Religion at the
University of Oxbridge. This wise and urbane scholar knew all
about the religion of the extinct Tasmanians, the beliefs of the
Hottentots, and the creed of the Pygmies. It was therefore supposed
by the Government that he could give sympathetic understanding
to both the Molybdenes and the Magnets. But, lest he should fail,
through being more urbane than forceful, he was to be supported
by a band of some hundreds of stalwart stewards, each of whom
should have been carefully screened to make sure that he had no
inclination towards either party. Lots were drawn as to which party
should be to the right and which to the left. The right fell to the
Magnets, the left to the Molybdenes. On the stage, and on the floor
of the hall, and in every gallery, this division was observed. A wide
aisle was left between the two parties, and throughout the meeting
the neutral stewards marched up and down this aisle with stern
orders to preserve the peace at all costs.
Aurora Bohra and Molly B. Dean had descended from their
mountains to inspire their faithful followers on this momentous
occasion. Each sat on a throne near the centre of the stage, separated
from the other only by the width of the aisle. Molly B. Dean loved
all mankind, but she did not love Aurora Bohra; Aurora Bohra
loved all mankind, but she did not love Molly B. Dean. Molly B.
Dean, with sharp, black, snapping eyes, after surveying the
gathering, darted a venomous glance upon Aurora Bohra, a glance
so venomous that it must have shrivelled a lesser personality.
Aurora Bohra, after gazing raptly at the ceiling, allowed her great
eyes to wander vaguely over the assembled multitude. Although,
at times, her gaze seemed to be directed towards the opposite throne,
it appeared that in that direction she saw nothing. The Medusa
glances of Molly B. Dean passed her by. Only in the rapt con-
templation of the great dome did she seem to yield to those sublime
emotions which had made her what she was.
Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow, each bristling with a sheaf of
NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
papers, stood at their desks, primed with all the facts and all the
arguments most calculated to overwhelm the other party.
Immediately behind Zeruiah Tomkins sat his son and destined
successor, Zachary. Zachary had been educated by his father with
the most careful regard to the preservation of his orthodoxy.
Never for a moment had he doubted the tenets of the Molybdenes,
never for a moment had he imagined any other destiny than to
help his father while he lived, and to carry on his work when death
should call him to an even happier land. But, in spite of a diet
adequately flavoured with molybdenum, he was a somewhat weedy
youth, and in his spare time turned his thoughts towards poetry
rather than theology. Although molybdenum was supposed to
confer muscular good cheer upon its devotees, he was the victim,
to his secret shame, of a somewhat melancholy outlook. He thought
Keats's Ode to Autumn unduly cheerful and wrote, himself, an Ode
to Autumn beginning,
And barley sheaves
Bring thought of the morrow
And snow and sorrow.
Often he would take himself to task, and wish that he could achieve
the eupeptic jollity which was the ideal of his sect. But, in spite of all
his efforts, melancholy and languor invaded his inmost being
whenever he could escape from the hustle and bustle of the
Behind Manasseh Merrow, and exactly opposite Zachary, sat
Mr. Merrow's daughter, Leah. Leah, like Zachary, had been
educated to the strictest orthodoxy. Like Zachary, it was intended
that she should succeed her father. But, like Zachary, she had
difficulty in preserving the state of mind demanded of an Adept.
There were even dreadful moments when she could not bring
herself to reverence Aurora. The time that she could spare from
helping her father at the office, she spent at the piano. Mendelssohn
was her favourite, but she rose occasionally to Chopin. Her real
preference, however, was not for classical music, but for old-
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS ZJ7
fashioned romantic songs such as Gaily the Troubadour and The
Bailiff's Daughter of Islington. She was not strictly beautiful, but her
expression had a certain earnest exaltation and her eyes were large
Both Zachary and Leah, at the meeting, found themselves, as
was natural, more interested in the opposite party than in their
own. Zachary bestowed a brief glance upon Aurora Bohra, but
shrank in revulsion from her vastness. Leah, encountering for a
moment the piercing glance of Molly B. Dean, was so rilled with
terror that she longed to hide. Each, after this moment of alarm,
was consoled by the sight of equal alarm across the aisle. Their
eyes met. Each had supposed until that moment that all who sup-
ported the opposite faction were base and wicked. Each, meeting
those frightened eyes, experienced a shock. "Surely," each thought,
"it is nothing villainous that those eyes express! Can my dear
father have been mistaken? Is it possible that the feelings which I
experience may also exist in the breast of an opponent? Can it
be that there is a common humanity which might override these
differences?" And while each so thought, each continued to gaze
into the eyes of the other.
Meanwhile, the business of the meeting proceeded, though the
two young people were at first scarcely conscious of what was
going on around them.
The Professor rose to deliver his opening address, which he
had prepared with the utmost care, and of which he and the Prime
Minister had conned every word to eliminate the slightest hint of
criticism or lack of neutrality. Somewhat nervously he cleared his
throat and began:
"Revered Pythonesses, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all aware
that in this great gathering there is disagreement ["Hear, Hear!"
from all parts of the Hall], but there is one matter as to which
we are, I trust and believe, all at one. All of us are eager to seek
Truth, and when found to proclaim it.".
From both sides of the Hall a vast shout went up at these words,
a shout of "No, No! Not on the other side!" The poor Professor,
somewhat disconcerted, skipped several mellifluous phrases, and
138 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
continued, "Well, be that as it may, it has been decided, by men for
whose wisdom I have a profound respect, that the division of our
great country into rival factions brings with it now, as it did in the
days of the Wars of the Roses, as it did again in the lamentable
dissensions of King and Parliament in the seventeenth century, a
danger lest, absorbed in internal quarrels, we should lose sight of
the peril from overseas. It is because of this peril that this meeting
has been convened in the hope that, without any loss of fervour,
without any diminution in the profundity of religious conviction,
the two creeds may unite and forge, by their union, a weapon of
irresistible might for the repelling of whatever enemies may
threaten our National Life."
At this point, again, he was interrupted. Cries came from
everywhere: "That's easy! Let the others join us I" Again, the
Professor skipped some pages of his prepared address, since he
deemed it wise, in view of the temper of the meeting, to make an
end quickly. "It is not for me," he concluded, "to dictate the
agreement to be arrived at. This is for you to decide, since we live
in a democracy. I will only repeat that the occasion is momentous,
and that your responsibility is great. May God bless your delibera-
Even during these opening remarks it had become clear that the
temper of the meeting was difficult. The unusual course was
adopted of having the Order of the Proceedings announced, not
by the Chairman, but by the Commissioner of Police. In authorita-
tive tones, very unlike those of the Professor, he announced that
each side would be allowed three speakers, each to speak for twenty
minutes, and that the toss of a coin had allotted the first speech to
the Molybdenes. He announced also that he had in reserve a large
force of police, and that, at the first sign of disorder, the Hall would
be cleared. Somewhat cowed, the audience became for a time
subdued, and listened to the first two speeches without excessive
These speeches were made by Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow.
Each dealt with the merits and success of his own movement, and
studiously refrained from any mention of his rivals. There were
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 13$
coughs and yawns, and not a few, overcome by the oppressive
atmosphere, fell asleep. It seemed as if the whole meeting would enc^
in flat boredom. But there were fireworks in reserve. When Mr.
Merrow sat down, Mr. Tomkins called upon Mr. Thorney to address
the meeting. Mr. Thorney, from his very first words, showed no
disposition to be conciliatory:
"Ladies and Gentlemen and Northern Magnets," he began.
"I am the Head of the Molybdenic Secret Service. I know things
that you do not know. I know the income of Sir Magnus North.
I know the extent of his estates in the North- West Territory.
I know that every evening he spends many hours, whether in
lascivious or merely lucrative commerce I know not, with the
supposed Holy Woman, Miss Bohra."
By these words the meeting was, for a moment, completely
stunned. The Magnets had known Mr. Thorney as a friend. The
Molybdenes were finding difficulty in his new role. While the
meeting was still held in bewildered silence, Mr. Wagner leapt
up and shouted:
"You have listened to lies, but 7 will tell you Truth! What do
you know of Amalgamated Metals Inc. ? What do you know of
the fortune of its principal shareholder? What do you know of
the role of molybdenum in its transactions? I, as Head of the Secret
Service of the Magnets, I can give you the amazing answer: the
fortune is immense; it is based upon molybdenum; and its lucky
owner is the Widow Dean !"
By the time he sat down, both sides were wrought to the utmost
pitch of fury. "Death to Sir Magnus and shame on his Infamous
Paramour!" was shouted from one side. "Down with Grasping
Plutocrats! To the Gallows with Murderous Molly!" the other
side retorted. For a brief moment their co-operative efforts were
devoted to overcoming a posse of stewards. That done, the rival
Saints met in savage mlee. The police, who had retained their
coherence, cleared the Hall with tear gas. With streaming eyes and
thunderous sneezes, the disconcerted thousands poured into the
street. Revived by the outer air, they resumed the fray in dis-
organized groups. Clothes were torn from backs, blows were
140 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
exchanged, feet were stamped upon, objurgations were shouted.
Late into the night the vague tumult continued, until at last,
utterly exhausted, the Holy Combatants fell asleep upon the cold
The leading personages on the stage, meanwhile, had been exhorted
by the police to make use of a secret exit. The Chairman, feeling
that his functions could no longer be exercised, was very willing
to depart. The Nepalese delegate, who had felt disaster coming,
tapped the Professor on the shoulder and said, "Let me take care
of you." The two together were hustled into a police car. "Oh,
where shall we go ?" said the Professor. "To the Nepalese Embassy,"
said his new friend. Arriving there tired and hopeless, he was
slowly revived by kindness, and when he had had time to collect
his thoughts, he was offered a Professorship in his own subject in
the Himalayan University of Nepal, provided he would sign a
document in a language unknown to him. He did so, and, having
thus established his credentials, which, as he discovered long after-
wards, consisted of a statement to the effect that Tensing had been
the first to reach the summit of Everest, he was taken by plane to
the seat of his new academic activities. At the end often years he
produced his monumental work, Religion and Superstition among
the Aborigines of the West. But this work has not appeared in any
The two Priestesses presented the police with a difficult problem.
Oblivious of everything else, Molly B. Dean had rushed across the
aisle to make a frenzied assault upon the massive Aurora. Reaching
up with her nails, she made long bloody scratches upon the face of
her rival, who, with her open hand, gave her a push, which
knocked her flat upon the floor. "Harridan!" she shouted as she
lay prone. "Peculating virago!" Aurora retorted in a voice very
different from, and much more shrill than, that to which her
disciples were accustomed. Some policemen picked up Molly B.
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 141
Dean, while ten others, with drawn truncheons, propelled Aurora
Bohra. Both together were placed in a Black Maria, where, acrosr
an intervening wall of policemen, they continued to hurl insults at
each other. Both were accused of a breach of the peace, and they
were confined for the night in separate cells which invited far
from pleasant reflections.
Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow, neither of whom had expected
the intemperate intervention of their Secret Agents, retired under
police protection to their respective offices. There, deeply dejected,
with their heads buried in their hands, they contemplated the ruin
of their life-work. Although total abstinence, except in the Recreative
Palaces, was a rigid tenet of both sects, both these devoted men
were found by charwomen in the morning prone on the floor with
an empty bottle beside each.
As for Zachary and Leah, they had been so absorbed in each
other that they were not aware of what was going on about them
until the din became overwhelming. Sitting among the neutrals,
a little way behind them, was Ananias Wagthorne, an official of
the Ministry of Culture, who had been sent to obtain data for
any bureaucratic action that might be called for. He was a kindly
and perceptive person, and had observed their absorption in each
other. In the final confusion he extended a hand to each, and said,
"Let me escort you to safety." Although somewhat embarrassed
by each other's presence, they obeyed, since any other course
seemed difficult. Helped by the police, he extricated them and
conveyed them safely to his flat. He introduced them to his wife,
who listened understandingly to his account of the monumental
fiasco. His wife was a good-natured lady, filled with sympathy for
the young people. "I do not think," she said to her husband, "that
these young people ought to attempt to go to their homes tonight.
The streets are disturbed, and no one can tell what furious mobs
may do. If Mr. Zachary could be content with the drawing-room
sofa, Miss Leah could have the spare room, and both could stay
here for the night." Both accepted gratefully. And both, utterly
worn out, soon fell asleep.
As the great meeting had been held on a Saturday, Mr. Wagthorne
142 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
was able to stay at home next morning, and devoted himself to
comforting the young people and diminishing their perplexities.
Neither knew what to believe of the lurid revelations to which they
had listened. Could it be that the Molybdenic Faith was built
upon financial fraud ? Zachary's thoughts shuddered away from so
dreadful a possibility. Could it be that the Faith of the Magnets was
only an incident in the rise of Sir Magnus North to wealth and
power? This nightmare suggestion seemed to Leah to empty life
of all its purpose. Mr. Wagthorne, finding them disconsolate, and
with no appetite for their breakfasts, inquired into their doubts.
"Can these things be true?" they both asked him.
"I fear they are but too true," he replied. "It has been my official
duty to make inquiries as to both sects. From the Board of Trade,
I have ascertained the extent of Mrs. Dean's interests in Amal-
gamated Metals Inc.; and from the Administration of the North-
West Territory, I have discovered the vast area possessed by Sir
Magnus, and its almost unlimited possibility of mineral wealth.
The relation of Sir Magnus with Aurora Bohra has long been known
and watched by the police. Your fathers, my dear young people,
were, I am convinced, totally ignorant of the revelations that were
made at yesterday's meeting. They, I am sure, are honestly and
wholeheartedly persuaded that the doctrines they preach are both
true and beneficent. It may be that, when you have had time to
reflect, each of you will agree with his or her father, and continue
to believe as heretofore. But I think it more likely that you will
both perceive what I believe to be the facts in this painful situation,
and that you will learn to build your lives upon a firmer foundation
than that upon which they have rested hitherto.
"But is it possible/' both exclaimed, "that any movement so
vast, and so potent in moving men's minds, should be based upon
nothing but fraud and folly?"
"It is only too possible," he replied. "It has been my duty to
study the history of such movements. They have been numerous.
Some have flourished briefly, others have lasted for centuries.
But there is no relation whatever between the vitality and life of a
movement and its basis in good sense."
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 143
At this point he fetched from his shelves a large tome called
The Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties, and Schools
of Religious Thought.
"Do not imagine," he said, "that you have any reason for shame,
or that you differ from the rest of mankind in the capacity to believe
what afterwards appears to have been nonsense. In this volume
the similar follies of the last two thousand years are recorded, and
a little study will show you that, in comparison with many of these)
your creeds have been sensible and moderate. Both your heresies
begin with the letter M, so let us see what this book has to say under
this letter. Let me recommend you to study the doctrines of
Macarius. I can assure you they are well deserving of attention, as
are those of the Majorinians, and the Malakanes, and the Mar-
cellinians, and the Marcosians, and the Masbothians, and the
Melchisedechians, and the Metangismonitae, and the Morelstschiki,
and the Muggletonians. Take, for example, the Marcosians, who
followed Marcus the Magician, 'a perfect adept in magical impostures
. . . joining the buffooneries of Anaxilaus to the craftiness of the
Magi,' and by these arts seducing the wives of deacons, and justi-
fying unlimited licence by the doctrine that he had 'attained to a
height above all power,' and was therefore free to act in every
respect as he pleased. Or, again, you may be thankful that neither
of you belong to the sect of the Morelstschiki, whose 'custom is to
meet together on a certain day in the year in some retired place,
and having dug a deep pit, to fill it with wood, straw, and other
combustibles, while they are singing weird hymns relating to the
ceremony. Fire is then applied to the piled-up fuel, and numbers
leap into the midst of it, stimulated by the triumphant hymns of
those around, to purchase a supposed martyrdom by their suicidal
afct.' No, my dear young friends, you need not feel that you have
been exceptional in folly, for folly is natural to man. We consider
ourselves distinguished from the ape by the power of thought.
We do not remember that it is like the power of walking in a
one-year-old. We think, it is true, but we think so badly that I often
feel it would be better if we did not. But I have matters that I
must attend to, and, for the moment,! will leave you to each other."
144 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
Left tete-a-tgte they preserved at first an embarrassed silence.
Then Zachary said, hesitatingly, "I cannot yet disentangle what
I am to think of what we heard yesterday, and of what our kind
friend has been saying. But there is one thing of which I feel sure,
and which I will say: When I looked across the aisle and saw the
crystal purity and gentle charity that shone from your eyes, I could
no longer believe that all Northern Magnets are degraded beings."
"Oh, Mr. Tomkins," she replied, "I am glad you have said
what you did, and . . . and ... I ... felt the same about the
"Oh, Miss Merrow," he replied, "can it be that, amid such ruin,
something has been salvaged ? Drifting alone, parted by doubt and
despair from former companions and former hopes, may I think
that in this night of apparent solitude we have found each other?"
"I think you may, Mr. Tomkins," she said.
And with that they fell into each other's arms.
For a little while they forgot their sorrows in mutual ecstasy;
but presently Leah sighed, and said, "But, Zachary, what are we
to Jo ? Can we break our fathers' hearts ? But how can we do other-
wise? It is impossible that we should marry and should continue
to profess our several former tenets."
"No," he replied, "that would be impossible. We must tell our
fathers of our loss of faith, whatever may be the pain to them.
You and I henceforth, dear Leah, must be one in thought and word
and deed, and that will be impossible if we pretend to a divided
With heavy hearts, they decided to confront their fathers. But,
strengthened by the new fire of love, neither faltered before the
Zachary and Leah, after some further conversation, decided to
postpone to the next day their confrontation with their respected
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 145
fathers, the rather as the \Vagtiiornes had very kindly asked them
to stay another night. After luncheon they walked in Kensington
Gardens, and, having known until that time nothing but offices
throughout the week and big meeting halls on Sundays, they were
struck by the beauty of wild nature and enjoyed emotions for
which others have to travel to the Alps or the Victoria Falls.
"I begin to think," said Zachary, as he feasted his eyes upon a
multi-coloured bed of tulips, "that perhaps we have lived, hitherto,
with somewhat too limited preoccupations. These tulips, I am
convinced, owe nothing to molybdenum."
"How refreshing are your words of wisdom!" Leah replied.
"Magnetism also, I am persuaded, has done nothing to produce this
They agreed that they felt themselves expanding in mind and
heart with every moment that passed since they had escaped from
the bondage of dogma. They had been brought up to worship
brawn, in which neither excelled. They had been taught to despise
everything delicate and subtle, everything fragile and evanescent.
Zachary, with secret shame, had enjoyed anthologies of the poets,
but he had felt about this as a secret morphia addict might feel
about his surreptitious doses. She, in her stolen hours at the piano,
had preferred the times when she knew her father to be absent.
But fortunately he had no ear for music, and, on the occasions when
he discovered her at the instrument, she persuaded him that she
was studying the Magnetic hymnbook. Now at last they felt that
they need no longer be ashamed of their tastes.
But they were still not without their fears fears for the world as
well as for themselves. "Do you think," she asked him with some
hesitation, "that it is possible to be good without the help of faith?
I have lived, hitherto, a blameless life. I have never uttered a bad
word. I have never tasted alcohol. I have never suffered the
pulmonary pollution of tobacco. Never have I slept with my head
pointing elsewhere than to the Magnetic Pole. Never have I gone
to bed too late or risen after the prescribed hour. And I have found
this same devotion to duty among my friends. But will it be possible
to go on living so, when I no longer feel that my every action and
146 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
my every breath should be a service of devotion and homage to
Earth, the Great Magnet ?"
"Alas," he replied, "the same perplexities trouble me. I fear
that I may be content in the morning to touch my toes fewer than
ninety-nine times, and even perhaps to acquiesce in a luke-warm bath.
I can no longer feel quite certain that alcohol and tobacco lead to
Hell. What, with such doubts, is to become of us ? Shall we go down
the primrose path to moral degradation and physical ruin ? What is
to preserve us, what is to preserve others who have hitherto been
our co-religionists, from a gradual descent into drunkenness,
debauchery and disaster? What, when we meet our fathers, shall
we say when they argue, as argue they will, that creeds such as
theirs, whether true or false, are necessary for the preservation of
mankind? I do not yet see the way to a clear answer. But let us
hope that parental wrath will inspire us when the moment comes."
"I hope it may be so," she said, "but I confess that I have fears,
for, even while strengthened by dogma, neither of us was wholly
able to abstain from sin. You with your poets, and I with my
piano, were guilty of deceit. If even in the past we sinned, what
will become of us now?"
Oppressed by this solemn thought, they returned gravely and
silently to the Wagthornes' tea-table.
When Monday morning came they sought their respective
fathers, determined to make such explanations as should be neces-
sary, and to seek such conciliation as might be possible. Zachary
found his father at the office surrounded by a wild confusion.
Letters of resignation were piled high upon his desk. Scathing
articles in hitherto friendly newspapers were omens of ruin. After a
Sunday devoted to recuperation, most of those who had fought
each other as devotees of this sect or that, had come to the con-
clusion that both equally must be repudiated. On Saturday night,
half the mob had sided with Mr. Tomkins, and half with Mr.
Merrow. Now, though it was not the time of day for a mob, the
few who passed either office showed equal hostility to both, and
only a strong force of police protected the faithful remnant from
the united hostility of those who felt that they had been duped.
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 143
Mr. Tomkins, though he retained his faith, was unable to under-
stand the designs of Providence in permitting what had occurred.
When he saw Zachary, a gleam of returning hope appeared for a
moment upon his countenance.
"Ah, my dear son," he said, "to what tribulations are the good
exposed. But you you whom, from your earliest infancy, I have
educated in the True Faith, you whose blameless life and un-
faltering belief have been among the greatest joys of my arduous
existence, you, I am sure, will not desert me in this difficult hour.
I am no longer young, and to build up again from its first founda-
tions that great Church, which had come so near to final triumph,
may prove beyond the power of my declining years. But you,
with the fresh vigour of youth, with the impetuous ardour of one
who has never had to fight doubt or uncertainty, you, I feel, will
rebuild the ruined edifice more pure, more splendid, more shining
than that which Saturday's fell work has laid in ruins."
Zachary was deeply moved, and his eyes filled with tears. He
wished with all his heart that he could give the answer which his
father longed to hear. But he could not. Something even more
compelling than intellectual doubts as to the physiological benefits
of molybdenum prevented his acquiescence. The thought of Leah
made submission to his father impossible. Never could his father
consent, with any willingness, to union with a Northern Magnet.
Zachary realized that he must speak, no matter how great might be
his father's pain.
"Father," he said, "much as I feel for your sorrow, I cannot do
as you wish. I have lost my faith. Molybdenum, we are assured,
cures diseases of the chest, but you must have known, or at least
suspected, that I suffer from tuberculosis of the lung. We are told
that molybdenum makes our muscles strong, but every Godless
hooligan from the slums can defeat me in a wrestling match. For
these things, however, some explanation could perhaps be found.
What is more difficult is that I love Leah'Merrow. . . ."
"Leah Merrow!" gasped his father.
"Yes, Leah Merrow, and she has consented to become my wife.
She, like me ? can no longer believe the faith in which she has been
148 NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
brought up. She, like me, is determined to accept painful facto,
however they may shatter a cherished world of beliefs. It is not
your work, it is not the work of Mr. Merrow, that can inspire our
lives henceforth. We wish to live unfettered by dogma, free to
accept whatever the facts may indicate, with minds open to the
winds of heaven, not wrapped in the cotton- wool of some warm
and comfortable system !"
"Oh, Zachary," his father answered, "you wring my heart!
You turn the bayonet in the dreadful wound ! Is it not enough that
the world has turned against me? Must my own son join my
enemies? Oh, dreadful day! And it is not I alone, it is the whole
world that you will be bringing to ruin by your heartless levity.
What do you know of human nature ? How can you estimate the
wild anarchic forces that your 'free winds of heaven' will liberate ?
What do you imagine restrains men from murder, arson, pillage
and debauchery? Do you imagine that the puny forces of reason
can effect this great work? Alas, in your sheltered life, you have
been kept from knowledge of the darker side of human nature.
You have believed that gentleness and goodness grow naturally
in the human heart. You have not realized that they are the unnatural
outgrowth of unnatural beliefs. It is such beliefs that I have tried
to inculcate. And, in this dark hour, I can admit that the Northern
Magnets also have been engaged in this task. Our creed, I still
believe, was as superior to theirs as the noonday sun to the last
glimmer of twilight. But what you offer is not twilight, it is black,
impenetrable*night. And, in the night, what deeds of darkness may
be done ! If this is to be your work, there will have to be, between
you and me, an enmity more deep and more implacable than that
which had divided me from the Northern Magnets."
Contrary to his own expectations, Zachary reacted to this
speech in a manner quite different from that intended by his father.
"No !" he said. "No ! It is not by organized falsehood that mankind
is to be saved. While you imagined that you were building virtue,
what was it that you were really building? It was the fortune of
Molly B. Dean. You imagined her a Holy Woman. Was it holiness
that inspired her when she scratched the face of Aurora Bohra?
FAITH AND MOUNTAINS 14$
Was it holiness that made her hide her financial interest in the
anonymity of Amalgamated Metals Inc. ? And, to come nearer
home, do you realize that you were sacrificing my life to youi
credulity? Do you realize that you have refused me the treatment
that my body demands, because it was not that that your sect
prescribes ? Can you not see that here, in my own case, is a sample
of the evils that men must suffer when they substitute dogma for
fact ? I will not believe that human nature is as bad as you say it is.
But if indeed you are right in this, no system of imposed discipline
will cure the evils, for those who impose the discipline will be
inspired by their own evil passions, and will find some indirect way
of inflicting the torments that their wickedness makes them desire.
No, you will but systematize evil; and evil, reduced to a system, is
more dreadful than anything that untamed anarchic passion can
produce. Good-bye, father! My love and my sympathy are yours,
but not, henceforth, my work!"
With these words, he departed.
Leah's interview with her father pursued a similar course, and
came to a similar termination. Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow each
attempted to continue the old work, but the fickle wind of fashion
had deserted them and only a few, and those in out-of-the-way
suburbs, remained faithful. Mr. Tomkins and Mr. Merrow were
compelled to vacate their palatial offices for which Mrs. Dean and
Sir Magnus no longer thought it worth while to pay. Both men,
having become dependent upon the voluntary offerings of the
faithful remnant, sank into poverty.
Sir Magnus and Molly B. Dean, though both suffered consider-
able losses, remained rich, and largely recouped themselves by
pooling their interests. In consequence of this, the friction between
the United States and Canada ceased, and Governments smiled
upon their joint enterprise. Aurora Bohra, who could not believe
that her success had depended upon Sir Magnus's money, remained
at the sanatorium and welcomed as before the few guests who still
came. But gradually the place became derelict, and the few faithful
observed a decay in her powers. The more fanatical among the
remaining Adherents attributed her decline to the malignant
ISO NIGHTMARES OF EMINENT PERSONS
influence of molybdenum, and darkly suspected her of apostasy $
(but, alas, the evidence for a simpler explanation became gradually
overwhelming. She sank first into alcoholic excesses, and then
still deeper into the baleful dominion of hashish. At length it
became necessary to carry her off, raving and maniacal, and leave
her to end her days in a mental home.
Zachary and Leah, who had never known want, and had taken
it for granted that they would follow their fathers in their com-
fortable and well-paid positions, found themselves in urgent need
of some means of livelihood. Zachary, who had impressed Mr.
Wagthorne by his capacity for absorbing an entirely new point of
view, and who had, in his surreptitious reading, acquired a con-
siderable breadth of knowledge, was found, on Mr. Wagthorne's
recommendation, worthy of a minor post in the Ministry of Culture.
Helped by Mrs. Wagthorne to establish themselves in a tiny flat,
Zachary and Leah married.
Leah, absorbed in domestic cares and in her love for Zachary,
found no time to repine, and did not hanker after former cer-
tainties. But Zachary found adjustment more difficult. Formerly,
decisions had been easy; now, they were hard. Should he do this
or do that ? Should he believe this or believe that ? He found himself
beset by hesitations and without a compass by which to steer his
course. He acquired the habit of spending his Sundays in long,
One winter evening, returning weary through drizzle and fog,
he found himself outside a tin tabernacle where a remnant of the
Molybdenes still worshipped. To the accompaniment of the
harmonium, they were singing those well-known words:
Molybdenum of metals best
Is good for high and low.
It cures diseases of the chest
And makes our muscles grow.
He sighed, and muttered to himself, "Could I but return to the
old Sublimities! Ah, how hard is the Life of Reason!"
A list of Bertrand Russell's other
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